Unplug Your Phone Charger And Save The ‘Dumsor’: Energy End-Use Inefficiency And The Ghanaian Experience
'…Even The ECG Office In Your Area Runs On Three Solid Generators And You Are Here Complaining About Power Shortage…-Unknown''
In the wake of frequent power outages in country, I present this paper on what I consider the consumers' role in the 'sustainable electricity shared responsibility' with evidence from available literature on the Ghanaian energy use experience. There is no denying the fact that sustainable energy is the basis of industrialisation and that the economy cannot be effectively restructured without an efficient energy sector, both on the demand and the supply side.
Evidence from the case of Fan Milk Ltd which cut its planned investment by $5.8m in March 2014 as a result of the frequent power outages, suggests that energy challenges can have severe unanticipated consequences on the mother economy. This challenge is however, not only faced by manufacturing industries as mining and other extractive firms lose huge sums of revenue during such periods just as the service sector does. Frequent power cuts lead to underutilisation of resources in industry, low productivity levels, higher production costs, and rise in general price level, fall in government tax revenues, budget deficits and attendant monetary policy conundrums.
Whilst government has over the years, demonstrated commitment towards revamping the sector and placing it in a position to meet our current energy needs, it is vitally important that the consumers also ensure efficient use of energy. Consumers must begin to assess the genuineness their energy demands. This assessment has become exigent in the light of the fact that energy demand has more than quadrupled over the past three decades (The Energy Commission, 2013). Whilst some may attribute growth in electricity consumption to expansion in economic activity, available data indicates that GDP over the same period has merely doubled, implying a huge percentage of electricity generated has not been channelled into productive ventures, but rather has been wasted (Agyarko 2010). Again, whilst population growth, rapid urbanisation etc. may also be blamed for rising energy demands, Levine, et al (1995) are convinced that growth in electricity consumption needs to be tackled by increasing electricity efficiency.
In a country where energy options such as solar, wind and thermal are not readily available, adopting measures to enhance electricity end-use efficiency, so as to reduce energy supply requirements will be fundamental to our success in the fight against power outages.
Consumers of electricity need to know that unlike water and natural gas, electricity cannot be easily stored. Energy is stored in the fuel itself before it is converted to electricity. Once converted, it has to go out on the power line-and enters your homes to power the TV sets and kitchen appliances. Therefore anytime you sleep with your TV on, your unused charger or any electrical appliance on, you call for an immediate conversion of the fuel into electricity, increase the demand and your bill irrationally.
Also, you do not only exacerbate the dumsor crisis but you increase government subsidy payments as well. These inefficiencies in energy use, even raises more serious concerns about government subsidies on electricity tariff. Because even though they are aimed at protecting consumers, they also aggravate fiscal imbalances, crowd-out priority public spending, and depress private investment, including in the energy sector.
To this effect, I believe it will only be in our interest as consumers of electric power, whether families, firms or farms to ensure that there is some compliance with efficient use of energy. Just as inefficiencies have negative effects on individuals and the economy, efficient energy use tend to have a healthy rebound effect on the economy. Efficient energy consumers do not only pay lower electricity tariffs, but also save in income, spend on other goods and services and collectively contribute to expanding the size of our economy. Additionally, government saves subsidy payment, invest in other areas such as health, education, security and ultimately development of more sustainable energy sources.
But in all, whilst consumers resolve to abide by energy efficiency standards, it is also expected that stakeholders such as the Ministry of Energy, the Energy Commission, the VRA, ECG, GRIDCo and more particularly the PURC and Energy Foundation intensify their efforts at increasing energy efficiency awareness amongst consumers. This I believe will ably assist in cutting down on 'artificial high energy demand' and in its small way, lend a short to medium-term solution to our energy challenge.
The writer, AHMED SALIM NUHU, is a student of economics in KNUST and a policy analyst at the Research Centre for Economic Policy and Development, Ghana.
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