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02.05.2008 Regional News

Forum On Energy Held In Abuja

A Ghanaian delegation made up of four members of the Parliamentary Sub-committee on Mines and Energy and the Public Utility Regulatory Services Commission are in the Nigerian capital, Abuja , attending two separate international forums aimed at finding solutions to the energy crisis facing the West African sub-region.

The first forum, a two-day conference on the identification of potential sources of increased investment in energy generation and distribution in West African countries, was held under the auspices of the International Association of Energy Economics and the Nigerian Association of Energy Economics, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Energy experts from the United States, Hungary and Germany shared with their West African counterparts, experiences from case studies on the implementation of various investment options in the development of energy infrastructure, the fixing of tariffs and exercise of regulatory functions in the energy sector in those countries.

The experts agreed that West Africa had abundant energy resources in the form of gas, oil and potential sources of hydro for energy supply and should, therefore, not have been experiencing the current energy problems plaguing the sub-region.

A round-table discussion of the key issues relating to the problems of energy generation and distribution in West African countries identified inadequate investment in the energy sector and difficulties in the exercise of regulatory control and management of the sub-region's energy sector.

A general consensus among the experts was that multiple sources of energy supply from various investors would ensure that there was more energy available than the demand for it.
 
This would give consumers patronage options, reduce tariffs, and thereby, play a significant role in solving the energy problems facing the sub-region.

The reluctance and inability of consumers to pay tariffs that would encourage investment in the energy sector in West Africa was identified as one of the causes of the energy crisis in the sub-region.

It was suggested that the collection of appropriate data would enable governments in the sub-region to identify truly poor and vulnerable groups in society that deserved the support of governments to access energy supply.

This could be done through the introduction of pre-paid meters and making advance payment of tariffs directly to energy companies on behalf of consumers who are too poor to pay for supply.

Some of the speakers at the first forum included Mrs Fatima Ibrahim, Nigeria's Minister of Energy in charge of Power; Mr Odari A. Kumogbobia, Minister of Energy in charge of Petroleum; Dr Rulwanu Lukman, Chairman of the Energy Council of Nigeria; Dr Aliyu Modibo-Uman, Federal Minster of State, and Chief Philip Asiodiu, Former Economic Advisor to President Olusegun Obsanjo and former Minister of Petroleum.

The second forum is being attended by more than 50 participants from Togo, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin and is seeking to canvass critical support from consumers and stakeholders in the energy sector for energy policy formulation which will solve the energy crisis facing the sub-region.

The forum will also discuss new concepts in energy investment, generation and distribution which have been tried in Europe and the United States and assess their strengths and weaknesses.

It was organised by the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas in the United States , the United States Agency for Development and the Kumasi Institute of Technology and Energy.

Members of the Ghanaian delegation attending the energy forum include the Member of Parliament for Upper Denkyira, Mr Benjamin K. Ayeh; the MP for Obuasi and Vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Sub-committee on Mines and Energy, Mr Edward Ennin; Dr Kwame Ampofo, MP for South Dayi, and the MP for Madina Abokobi, Mr Ahmadu Sorogho.

Story by George Sydney Abugri

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