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21.03.2007 Feature Article

Alas Valco is closed down-NDC's Panacea to our energy problems in sight

The Volta Dam alone provides about 60% of the country's energy needs. The dam, built in 1965 on the Volta River, generates about 912 megawatts of power at Akosombo and about 160 megawatts at Kpong, a smaller dam built 25km downstream. It is worth noting that VALCO receives 115megawatts, representing just about 10% of power supplied by the VRA to the country.

VALCO, most often, becomes the scapegoat anytime there is a power crisis in the country such that it has been shut down for about eleven times since its establishment. One of the strongest advocates for the closure of VALCO is Dr. Kwame Ampofo, the NDC MP for North Dayi and Minority spokesman on Energy. At long last VALCO has been closed down, at least, temporary (or so we are told). The question I will like to pose is 'are we not behaving like ostriches? Is the closure of Valco the panacea to our energy problems? Is this not an oversimplification of issues? Have we weighed the implications and consequences of this action as against its effect on our industrial advancement, housing, employment and the very survival of VRA itself?

A little research I have conducted suggests that utility companies worldwide offered lower prices to smelters because these plants bought bulk power, thereby guaranteeing demand and ready and stable income for utilities. Transmission cost in transmitting power to VALCO also cost less because less amount of equipment was used and also distribution losses including illegal connections, were completely absent while revenue collection was easier.

Instead of policy makers to have thought over the years on alternative means of power generation, the lack of the political will to charge realistic tariffs which come with such sources of power generation have made them behave like vultures, always postponing such initiatives.

I therefore heaved a little sigh of relief when in this year's sessional address, I heard the President outline some measures to ensure our energy problems do not exacerbate to such an extent that we would give way to the doomsdays prophets call for a closure of livewires like VALCO. Among the emergency measures were to get some extra power from Nigeria and La Cote d'Lvoire in a fortnight.

Till now, what has happened to it? Has the fortnight not come? We are now being told that there are some interconnectivity problems between Ghana and these countries and hence they are being worked out. Who then infused such measure into the President's address? Did he/she not know of the interconnectivity problem? Has such a person a justification?

Now VALCO is closed down. Are our problems over? About 700 workers are to lose their jobs, 500 of whom as at the close of 18/03/07 had already received their redundancy letters. As a result of the closure of VALCO, Pioneer Kitchenware Limited is to import metal to facilitate its operations. What becomes of them, not to mention their dependants? Was the continuous existence of VALCO not a justification for the construction of the Hydro-dam? Would it not have contributed immensely towards efforts at making Ghana a middle income country by the year 2015? We have, as a nation, defeated Dr. Nkrumah's visions for the construction of the dam and the establishment of VALCO. Nevertheless, the Bui Dam project is on course and I am hoping that it will complement the Akosombo vision.

Mr. Dan Acheampong, the Human Resources and Community Affairs Director of VALCO couldn't have said it better when he noted that it is unfortunate that while everybody was concerned about poverty levels in the country, 'we seem divided over the obvious solution to the industrialization of the country to help create jobs and alleviate poverty'.

By the way, I agree with Dr. Charles Mensah that the aluminum and steel industry held the key to industrial development of the country as has being typified by South Korea and other European countries which rode on the back of the steel industry to attain their present status (Daily Graphic 22-02-07)

My conviction is that it is about time we approached the problem head on. Hydro cannot continue to be the mainstay of our energy need. Solid and pragmatic strategies like the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) Project which has been on the drawing board since the 80's will bring some relief to the Aboadze Thermal Plant's over reliance on crude oil.

Fellow Ghanaians, energy consumption comes with a cost and service delivery by the ECG will equate with the kind of tariffs to be paid. I believe that independent power providers are welcome to the table to make the President's vision of making the energy crisis a thing of the past a reality. Why not help in our own small ways to conserve power by switching off appliances and electrical gadgets when they are not in use?

I will urge all politicians, civil society organizational especially the CJA and all Ghanaians to dispassionately look at the problem confronting us and to help creatively fashion out the realistic solution to surmount it now or never. We are tired of perennial power cuts. Lets us break the jinx for once.



This author has authored 22 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KOBLANUVIADENU

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