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17.01.2006 General News

Utility companies urged to be humane with disconnections

By GNA

Accra, Jan. 17, GNA - Mr Andrew Quayson, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), on Tuesday urged utility service companies to "have a bit of a human face" when carrying out disconnection exercises.

He suggested that disconnection exercises should not be carried out on Fridays, weekends and public holidays.

He said in some countries such exercises were not done at homes where old people were known to be staying. Mr Quayson made the remark in the first of the Commission's public forums, held in Accra on Tuesday at which the Volta River Authority (VRA), Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) made presentations. The aim of the forum was to solicit views from service providers, consumers and other stakeholders, so as to enhance service delivery of the utility companies.

In an overview of the current performance of the utility companies, Mr Quayson said 45 per cent of the population had access to electricity, but the average outage duration achieved in the year 2004 was 126 hours in residential or non-residential areas against the PURC target of 100 hours. The outage was also 28 hours for industrial areas compared to 30 hours by PURC.

In 2005 commercial and technical losses for electricity were 25 per cent as against 27 per cent in 2004.

Mr Quayson said electricity supply was still constrained by unreliability of service and fluctuating voltage. He said accessibility remained the challenge of electricity supply, and called on consumers to support ECG by paying their bills promptly. They should also stem illegal connections, tampering with meters and poor energy conservation practices. On water, Mr Quayson said less than half of the urban population had access to potable water and by 2001 figures, 59 per cent of customers were supplied with water daily; 13 per cent every other day and 24 per cent twice weekly.

Mr Joshua Kofi Ofedie, Chief Executive of the VRA, said the nation could no longer rely on hydropower because of the irregular rainfall pattern.

This consequently required diversification of electricity supply sources, Mr Ofedie explained, and announced that the Authority was sourcing funds to secure a steam generator to make operational the Osagyefo Barge, now stationed at Effaso in the Western Region, as well as a combustion turbine to power the Aboadze Plant in providing thermal electricity supply.

Mr Ofedie said people and industries that paid high tariffs were to enjoy a decrease in prices when the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project became operational next year.

He told the GNA later in an interview that it was an offence to build under high-tension cables considering the health hazards and enormous risk of electrocution.

Mr Ofedie warned that the Authority would demolish illegal structures sited under the Authority's pylons and high-tension cables, consider prosecution and make the developer pay for the cost of demolishment.

Mr Stephen Akuoko, Managing Director of the ECG, said customer population for the ECG stood at 1,313,825. He said some Ministries, Departments and Agencies had not paid their huge bills and the Company in turn had not been able to pay all its debts to the VRA.

Mr Akuoko announced that the ECG was creating 13 more districts nationwide as a means of getting closer to the people and improving its customer relations.

Mr Kobby Kessie, Chief Manager in Charge of Administration of the GWCL, said the Company had designed and implemented rationing programmes to ensure equitable distribution of available water in major consuming and deprived areas.

The forum, chaired by Mr Kwame Pianim, Chairman of the PURC and an Economic Consultant, would be held later in Kumasi and Tamale.

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