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11.04.2007 General News

Energy Crisis –Why we are where we are —STOP THE TALK AND GIVE US THE POWER!

By Ghana Palaver

The NDC is the country's major opposition party. When in the middle of a crisis, it calls a Press Conference to talk about the crisis; it is understandable; it is doing its job.

The NPP is the country's ruling party. When in the middle of a crisis, it calls a Press Conference to talk about the crisis, it is not understandable. It is not doing its job. This is because the people expect the ruling party, the Government, to do something about the crisis, not to talk about the crisis.

Last week's counter-Press Conference by Energy Minister Joseph Adda in response to NDC Presidential Candidate Professor Atta-Mills' Press Conference got even diehard NPP members very angry, for there was little or no point in attempting to rebut the NDC's arguments when the reality is that the people are in total darkness for 24 hours out of every 72 hours.

We are aware of the NPP propaganda strategy that says that every NDC statement must be countered within 24 hours, whether or not the Party has something to say. That strategy may work for as long as the debate is about concepts. When the issue is about reality, people find debates a waste of time, especially when it is known that it is the Government's responsibility to produce the electricity.

Indeed if the NPP had been able to produce the electricity, curtail the load shedding and stop the frequent power cuts, the NDC would have been put to shame. The NPP's deeds would have talked for them.

Instead, what we have had is six years of talk as far as the power sub-sector is concerned. Let us just walk through President Kufuor's “State of the Nation” Addresses for the seven years that he has been in power, and we will all realize why there is general agreement that as far as the power sub-sector is concerned, the NPP does not have the men.

2001 State of the Nation Address

In 2001, President Kufuor did not say a word about the power sub-sector in his State of the Nation Address. It was obviously not one of his priorities.

2002 State of the Nation Address

In 2002, at page 10 of his State of the Nation Address, President Kufuor gave the following undertakings:

· Cabinet has approved the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project and is awaiting the execution of the Agreement with the Partners hopefully soon.

· The Efaso Thermal barge, built three years ago and left in Italian waters is being brought to Ghana within the next two months to augment the energy output.

· Government is in talks with the CMS Company of Michigan USA to raise the necessary resources to complete the second phase of the Aboadze Thermal Plant, which is expected to reduce its production cost by a third.

· A committee is reviewing the Bui Dam project proposals to expand it for multi- purpose uses.

Five years since the President made these promises, the West Africa Gas Pipeline has not com on stream; the Efaso Thermal Barge, brought down ten months after the Address, has not been put to use to augment the energy output. Five years after the Address; the second phase of the Aboadze Thermal Plant has not yet commenced; let alone be completed, and the Bui Dam still remains a project proposal; still on the drawing board.

2003 State of the Nation Address

In the 2003 State of the Nation Address, President Kufuor had the following to say about the power sub-sector:

“Two weeks ago, I signed the agreement for the construction of the West Africa Gas Pipeline. This is a big project with vast implications for the economies of the four countries that have signed up for it. I believe that once completed, it will go a long way to reducing the cost of energy to consumers generally and industry in particular— There is reason for cautious optimism from the explorations for crude oil taking place in our offshore waters. So let us keep praying”.

Four years since the President made this promise, the West Africa Gas Pipeline has not come on stream, the cost of energy has gone up more than 300 percent, and our prayers have not been answered to enable us discover crude oil.

2004 State of the Nation Address

In the 2004 State of the Nation Address, President Kufuor made the following points about the power sub-sector:

· Government has taken certain measures which will radically change the direction and strategic focus of the generation, transmission and distribution components of the power sector.

· Work on the projected ECOWAS Gas Pipeline should start this year, and if everything works to plan, the project is expected to be completed in 2005.

· It is estimated that, with it, fuel cost of the nation will be reduced appreciably and will help to rationalize the economy.

· Government remains very sensitive to the plight of the citizens and industry, and will do its best to help tide over our economy at this critical and harsh season”.

Three years since the President made these promises, we have not seen the measures that will radically change the direction and strategic focus of the energy sector, the West Africa (not ECOWAS) Gas Pipeline has not been completed, fuel costs have risen sharply, and the Government has proved most insensitive to the plight of the citizens and industry.

2005 State of the Nation Address

In the 2005 State of the Nation Address, President Kufuor, in a dismissive reference to the power sub-sector, simply stated: “The West Africa Gas Pipeline Project and the West Africa Power Pool Project are both coming on stream. The electricity sub-sector is also being improved to provide better quality service”.

Two years since these remarks, neither the West Africa Gas Pipeline nor the West Africa Power Pool Project has come on line, and the quality of service of the electricity sub-sector has worsened, to the extent that we now have 24 hours total blackout out of every 72 hours, and the electricity, when it is on, is most un reliable and unpredictable.

2006 State of the Nation Address

In the 2006 State of the Nation Address, power as a sub-sector was not specifically mentioned. Instead, the President stated in various parts of his Address as follows:

· The resuscitation of VALCO is the first step towards the establishment of an integrated aluminium industry whose raw materials include bauxite and limestone, both available in this country. The processing of caustic soda which is an important ingredient requires large volumes of salt, which is also abundant locally.

· The potential of this single industry is so vast, in terms of revenue and employment generation; and if its types were replicated in other sectors of the economy, the combined impact will be phenomenal, and will rapidly move the economy towards the required growth.

· Gas from the West Africa Gas Pipeline is expected to be available by December this year.

Since these statements were made last year, VALCO has shut down operations, the integrated aluminium industry remains a dream, no revenue or employment has been generated, and there has been no gas from the West Africa Gas Pipeline.

2007 State of the Nation Address

The 2007 State of the Nation Address, delivered in the middle of the current power crisis, contains the most ambitious and most comprehensive of all the President's policy statements on the power sub-sector. The President stated as follows:

· The West Africa Gas Pipeline Project is now programmed to be operational in August this year.

· In anticipation of this flow of gas, the establishment of gas turbine thermal plants is being undertaken by public and private agencies.

· Government has taken short to medium term measures to put an end to the embarrassing and expensive load shedding which society and industry have been subjected to over the past six months.

· Within the next fortnight, Ghana will benefit from supplies from Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire to the tune of 200 megawatts.

· The Volta River Authority is poised to establish a 300 megawatt plant in Tema.

· VRA is building another emergency plant to supply 126 megawatts of power by August this year.

· The Osagyefo Power barge which has been standing idle will be empowered to produce 120 megawatts,

· A private sector Ghanaian-Chinese joint venture company is in the offing to produce, in two phases, up to 600 megawatts of power.

· Government has also contracted three America Companies to produce up to 110 megawatts by the end of April.

· This arrangement would altogether provide at least 500 megawatts which is far in excess of the present short fall.

· A consortium of mining companies has offered to build a plant at Tema, to be completed by June, to supply 80 megawatts of power.

· Government has initiated action to build the Bui Dam. A high powered delegation is in China to sign an agreement with the Chinese Exim Bank for assistance towards the construction of the Bui Dam which is designed to generate 400 megawatts of electricity.

· Within five years, the energy level will be doubled in capacity to cater for the industrial and economic requirements for the next 20 years.

· Research is ongoing to find alternative sources like solar, wind as well as biological plants like the jetropha whose seed is used to produce diesel oil.

What happened to the promises?

The fortnight after the President's speech passed on 22nd February, 2007. The anticipated 200 megawatts from Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire did not materialise. Indeed, we are sceptical whether any of the President's announced strategies will ever materialise, given that some, like the Osagyefo Barge, were announced as far back as 2002.

What we have provided above represents the totality of President Kufuor's energy policy, spanning the nearly seven years of his Presidency. Not one of those policies has been implemented. Not one kilowatt of electricity has been added to the stock that the NDC left behind in 2001.

That is why it is annoying that that Joseph Adda character, who is the NPP Minister of Energy, should waste precious ministerial hours at a Press Conference responding to an opposition party doing its job of talking, instead of spending those hours doing his job of providing us with the power.

We will repeat what we said at the beginning. We are facing a power crisis. We expect the opposition parties to talk about it. But we expect the NPP Government, qua Government, to act on it.

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