Closing the gap to reach universal accessNovember 22, 2021
Ing. Ebenezer Kofi Essienyi, chief executive of Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), talks to The Energy Year about what the company is doing to upgrade power transmission infrastructure and help increase electrification in Ghana. GRIDCo is the national transmission asset owner and system operator of the country’s electricity sector.
What is GRIDCo doing to revamp infrastructure and increase electrification in Ghana?
We have sufficient power from generators. The current challenge is transmission and distribution. Our strategy is to focus on transmission lines. We need to maintain the lines that exist and clear our right of way (RoW) to prevent outages due to vegetation overgrowth. We have a lot of legacy lines, some more than 50 years old.
We need to completely reconstruct these lines to extend the lifecycle of these transmission corridors for the next 30-40 years. There will also be the need to upgrade transformer capacities in the Kumasi and Takoradi metropolitan areas, the second and third largest cities in Ghana. This will ensure suitable voltages to power home appliances and support our industrial customers.
Electrification now stands at 85.33%, as of the end of 2020. The government is assisting GRIDCo with the required guarantees to enable us to develop transmission infrastructure so we can evacuate power from generation hubs to various load centres. To increase the power transfer capability to the middle and northern parts of the grid, the Ameri power plant is being relocated to the second biggest city in Ghana, Kumasi.
It is worth noting that Ghana’s power demand doubles every decade, as is typical of developing countries. As such, utilities have a daunting task of meeting this rapidly growing demand while closing the gap to universal access. As such, a multi-faceted approach has been adopted to meet these objectives. While the government provides the necessary guarantees to enable state utilities to meet growing demand, it also adopts strategies such as the deployment of off-grid systems to supply islanded areas and places where it is less economical to extend grid power.
What projects is GRIDCo working on to stabilise the supply of electricity to large urban areas?
The Pokuase bulk supply station (with a capacity of 560 MVA), financed with a USD 45.3-million grant from Millennium Challenge Corporation, will eventually handle the bulk of the power required in Accra. The Kasoa substation (with a capacity of 435 MVA) will be in commissioned in the first quarter of 2022, and also developed through a grant from Millennium Challenge Corporation worth USD 43 million, will also complement existing bulk supply points in Accra and help to improve the quality of supply to customers and reduce distribution losses.
How does GRIDCo go about finding financing for power generation projects?
When looking for corporate funding, you need to sell a bankable project with a reasonable return on investment to attract the required finances. Investors expect prudent utilisation of their funds. These funds should be directed at helping the industrialisation of the country. For example, the government has the One District, One Factory programme, which is helping Ghana to develop its agro-processing industries, and that requires electricity. When donors see you make efficient use of resources, they are more willing to help. We need to select appropriate projects that are attractive to financiers.
Typically, transmission projects are long-term and require patient capital with a minimum payback period of 15 years.
With the assistance of developmental finance institutions like AFD [Agence Française de Développement], we are executing a pipeline of projects including the Volta-Achimota-Mallam transmission line and the 330-kV Kumasi-Bolgatanga Transmission Line to support power exports to Burkina Faso.
Has the pandemic accelerated the company’s adoption of digital tools?
The pandemic brought opportunities to use tools to our advantage. For instance, GRIDCo decided to roll out the ERP [enterprise resource planning] tool as a means of mitigating human interaction and making the way we generate our reports and perform our functions more efficient. In enterprise risk management, we are moving away from using spreadsheets and bringing in software to enable us to identify, collate and manage risk effectively and efficiently.
How does the company balance challenges facing the grid with providing consumers with what they want?
Communication is a big issue. As the system operator, we have a bird’s eye view of the challenges facing the National Interconnected Transmission System (a network of generators, transmission lines and distribution companies). Hence GRIDCo often has quite an odious task explaining challenges in the network. Suppose there is a gas shortage or an independent power producer is suddenly unavailable or there is required maintenance. At the end of the day, consumers still want the electricity they have paid for regardless of the circumstances.
An agreement has been reached with key stakeholders such as the Energy Commission, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, Ministry of Energy and Electricity Company of Ghana to be informed of planned maintenance that results in outages for consumers within a reasonable time as specified by the National Electricity Grid Code.