THE Volta River Authority (VRA) has initiated moves to generate 100 megawatts of wind and solar power by the end of this year at the cost of $40 million.

Sites have been acquired in the northern sector of the country for the installation of the solar equipment and the coastal areas where wind turbines will be mounted.

The Chief Executive of the VRA, Mr Kweku Andoh Awotwi, stated this at a public lecture to mark the 50th anniversary of the authority in Accra yesterday.

It was on the theme, “Powering the economy of Ghana and setting the standard for public sector excellence in Africa”.

Present at the lecture were four former chief executives of the VRA, namely, Mr Louis Casely-Hayford, Mr E.K. Kalitsi, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby and Mr Joshua Ofedie.

With a production capacity of 1,300 Gigawatts per hour (Gwh) in 1967, the VRA has grown to a current output of more than 10,000 Gwh.

Mr Awotwi explained that the northern sector had been identified as the best area to site the solar equipment because of the high temperatures, while the coast had been selected for the wind turbines because of the abundance of wind.

He added, however, that feasibility studies would be done to ascertain whether other areas in the country could host wind turbines.

He said Ghana’s power generation capacity was set to increase in the coming years, with the Bui Dam providing 400 megawatts and the various expansion programmes being embarked upon also supplying another 400 megawatts.

He added that with wind and solar delivering 100 megawatts, the country would soon have an additional 900 megawatts of power.

He traced the history of the VRA from the 1960s, saying from a company which made profit of about S60 million dollars a year, the VRA had fallen on hard times since the commencement of thermal operations in the last decade and in a particular year made losses of about $300 million.

He said the company’s losses, including government support, had exceeded $1.6 billion from 1997 to 2010.

“Over the past decade, VRA’s finances, without government support, would have been worse due to the high bill to run the thermal facilities,” he added.

Turning the spotlight on the challenges for the next 50 years, Mr Awotwi said questions such as what the VRA would require to become a healthy and profitable company again, whether the power reforms would work, whether electricity supply was going to become more reliable and access substantially increase needed to be answered.

“Can the power sector reforms bring the necessary investments in the respective segments of electricity supply, namely, generation, transmission and distribution, and can they bring focus on efficiency, cost competitiveness and the need for transparency?” he asked.

“Can they enable the introduction of cost reflective tariffs and can they enable the entry of private sector investment and participation?” he asked again.

Mr Awotwi also wondered whether competition would bring electricity access to the people, as had happened in Ghana’s telephony industry.

He said competition, by itself, was not enough to assure the health of Ghana’s electricity sector or the successful provision of electricity for the people.

“Strong, independent and transparent institutions, well-designed market rules and regulations and a careful balance of strategic imperatives with economic fundamentals are the key,” he noted.

Mr Casely-Hayford, on his part, noted that the VRA had some of the best professionals in Ghana but had allowed too much political interference, hence the myriad of problems confronting it.

He added that some of the problems had been financial, adding that the company needed to reorganise itself and bounce back.

Dr Wereko-Brobby said until Ghana achieved universal access to electricity, private participation would remain an illusion.

According to him, electricity in Ghana was very cheap and consumers were not charged realistic tariffs, adding, however, that if consumers were charged higher and did not get commensurate quality services, they were bound to get agitated.

Mr Ofedie was of the view that improvement in efficiency would minimise the pressure on tariffs.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Energy Commission, Prof Abeeku Brew-Hammond, who chaired the event, said the company needed to have its vision clearly spelt out on how its skilled human resource would be put to good use.

He also called for the strengthening of the institutions in the power sector to enable them to perform better.

Source: Daily Guide

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