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07.06.2005 General News

Minister calls for cooperation in energy projects

GNA

Accra, June 7, GNA - Professor Mike Ocquaye, Minister of Energy, on Tuesday called for cooperation in the development of regional energy projects, saying the fragile economies and small power markets of individual countries could not support the huge financial requirement for expansion of energy resources.

Addressing the opening session of the 15th Congress and Exhibition of the Union of Producers, Transporters and Distributors of Electric Power in Africa (UPDEA), Prof Ocquaye said countries on the Continent would only be able to increase access to electricity by the majority of rural dwellers if they pooled their energy resources for development.

"In our global world today, the provision of electricity is better carried out in partnership with others," he said, emphasising that such a collaboration would also make it possible to attract both local and foreign capital into the projects and also boost investment in other sectors of the economy.

UPDEA is made up of 45 member utilities from 37 African countries and aimed to promote regional integration through the establishment of power pools and interconnections between countries.

The five-day Congress and Exhibition in Accra is to create a platform for the exchange of experience and ideas among African utilities, development partners and specialised institutions in the energy sector.

About 400 delegates representing 37 African countries and some affiliate members from Europe and America are attending the Congress on the theme: "Access to Electricity for all People of Africa Through a Pooling of Energy Resources."

Prof Ocquaye said despite progress in the sector, the issue of access to modern forms of energy remained one of the greatest hindrances to development on the Continent.

It is in this direction that the Government was pursuing policies to ensure that adequate, competitively priced and reliable energy was always available to support its economic and development drive by assuming a leadership role in the Sub-Regional initiatives on energy such as the West African Gas Pipeline and the West African Power Pool projects.

Besides, efforts were also being directed at exploring renewable forms of energy such as solar, small to medium scale hydro, wind and other forms of power.

"These forms of energy are not only indigenous and create employment, but also afford our rural folks, who live in the remotest parts, of the country access to modern forms of energy," he said.

Prof Ocquaye expressed the hope that the congress would come out with ideas to improve rural dwellers' access to electricity. Mr Joshua Ofedie, Chief Executive of the Volta River Authority, expressed regret that though Africa had plenty of energy resources, the pace of development and distribution had not been satisfactory because the member countries had not been able to develop the resources as individuals.

He, therefore, said that, by coming together in the form of UPDEA, Africa stood a better chance of receiving assistance from its development partners so as to satisfy its growing energy demands. Mr Thulani Gcabashe, President of UPDEA, said the group would find innovative ways to exploit Africa's vast untapped energy resources.

In accordance with the UPDEA convention, the country that hosts the Congress becomes its next President for a three-year term. Accordingly, the VRA has assumed the Presidency of the UPDEA from now until 2008.

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