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27.04.2007 General News

"GOVERNMENT SPLITS VRA"

By Ghana Palaver
NDC Parliamentary Minority Rejoinder
Yesterday, Monday 16th April 2007, the Energy Minister, Mr. Joseph Adda, called a press conference to inform the press of measures the NPP government was taking to resolve the energy crisis facing the nation.
According to the Minister, the 161 KV transmission line system, currently an integral part of the VRA system, is to be carved out and set up as a separate company to run the existing VRA transmission network and any future ones. A new company, Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO) has been set up for this purpose. Today's edition of the Daily Graphic carried the story under the front-page banner headline, "Government splits VRA".
This so called NPP government new policy initiative is no new policy. It is yet another NPP government's adoption of an NDC government policy without giving due credit to the NDC government. In short, it is "a borrowed policy."
When in 1997, as part of the NDC government's reforms of the energy sector, it decided to open the electricity sub sector up for Private Sector participation, it was felt that the expected Independent Power Producers (IPPs) could not be assured of a level playing field when a competitor, the VRA, was the owner and the controller of the transmission lines, the medium through which power produced was transported to the consumer.
The NDC government therefore decided to restructure the generation, transmission and distribution aspects of electricity. The restructuring plan was as follows:
VRA was to be broken up and its role restricted to electricity generation only.
The distribution of electricity was to be the responsibility of Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). In this connection, the functions and operations of the Northern Electricity Department (NED) of Volta River Authority were to be taken over by the ECG.
Independent Power Producers (IPPs) were to be encouraged to participate in the generation of electricity. The first company which took advantage of the NDC's IPP policy was CMS Energy of Michigan which entered into a joint venture with VRA to set up the 220 MW Aboadze Thermal Plant (TAPCO).
The 161 KV transmission network, currently operated by the VRA, was to be hived off and set up as an independent national electricity grid transmission company. This company was to be responsible for ensuring that all generators of electricity would have equal unfettered access to the national grid for transportation of the electricity they generate to their customers.
A company, Volta Communication Company (Voltacom), was set up to run a telecommunication transmission system based on the FIBRE OPTIC lines, which are a part of the VRA's 161 KV transmission system. Interestingly, the person who has been appointed the Managing Director of the NPP government's proposed National Grid Company, Mr Joseph Wiafe, was the Managing Director of the Volta Communication Company when it was set up under the NDC government's Power Sector Reform Programme.
All these were contained in the NDC policy document entitled "Government of Ghana: statement of power sector development policy" presented by the Honourable Ferdinand Ohene-Kena, Minister of Mines and Energy, to Parliament and to the World Bank in April 1999.
What the NPP government has done is to dust up the NDC government's policy on electricity sub sector reforms and present it as an NPP government policy on electricity.
The NDC would like to inform Ghanaians that the electricity crisis we have now will not be solved by the setting up of GRIDCO.
As at today, it is only the VRA and CMS Energy, which generate power in the country. CMS Energy has had unfettered access to the transmission system of VRA.
The issue of open access to the transmission system is an important component of the measures to attract Independent Power Producers. It will take some time to materialise, but it will not resolve the current NPP government-induced electricity crisis, which has thrown the country into darkness, and is collapsing hundreds of small and medium scale enterprises on a daily basis. The number of private appliances destroyed by the NPP government's short sightedness in failing to forestall the energy crisis is unimaginable.
To resolve the present energy crisis, the NPP government must bring in emergency power plants to generate additional electric power. That is the only short-term measure that will resolve electricity crisis.
The NPP government cannot hoodwink the good people of Ghana by making it look as if they are doing something about the current energy crisis through the formation of GRIDCO when its establishment will not add even 1KW of power to the system now.
17th April 2007.
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