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Cleaner Energy For Ghana: The Renewable Energy Masterplan.

Ghana plans to rope in a 10% stake in renewable energy sources in its national energy mix by 2030, albeit with a current modern stake of 1.6%. Together with a policy target of universal electricity access by 2020, the government is expending considerable efforts and resources to achieve these ambitious goals.

The grand design of this national objective is captured in the Renewable Energy Masterplan (REMP), a national document that stipulates clear policy directions on how to materialize this goal toward a cleaner greener lower carbon future for the country. 

Realizing the Masterplan, elaborate with short through medium to long-term targets, is a topmost national priority in a wider international commitment – the COP Agreement, also known as the Paris Agreement; a global party of countries with strong pledges to reduce global greenhouse gas and carbon emissions through individual country efforts termed ‘Nationally Determined Contributions.

Under this globally binding Agreement, Ghana’s Renewable Energy (RE) sector has four comprehensive policy directions with a total of nine programs of action to be implemented to achieve desired mitigation goals in the Agreement.

Uppermost on the priority list is to scale up the national plan of RE penetration by 10%, spread across sectors of the renewable terrain: Wind (50-150MW); Hydro (150-300MW), (Utility-scale Solar: 150-250MW); 55 mini-grids and 200,000 solar rooftop installations (both distributed generation and off-grid).

Secondly, the country must promote clean rural household lighting with a specific target of two million solar lanterns. Again, the plan stipulates the expansion of the adoption of market-based cleaner cooking solutions, scaling up the adoption of LPG use from 5.5% to 50% for household cooking while facilitating the adoption of two million efficient cookstoves. The country is also tasked to double energy efficiency improvement to 20% in power plants – to replace LCOs with Natural Gas.

Ghana’s Renewable energy masterplan (REMP) with the timeline of 2030, however, has set ambitious targets to achieve: Solar Utility Scale – 447.5MW, Distributed Solar PV – 200MW, Standalone Solar PV – 20MW, Solar Lanterns – 1,000,000 units, Wind Utility Scale – 325MW, Biomass Utility Scale – 72MW, Waste-to-Energy Utility Scale – 50MW, Small/Medium Hydro plants – 150MW, Solar Traffic signals (% of total traffic signals installed in the country)- 60, and Mini/Micro-grids 12MW.

Nonetheless, the REMP is not the only national document available on escalating renewable energy technology adoption in the country. Other government documentation includes National Plans (NDPC), Strategic National Energy Plan (EC), Integrated Power Sector Master Plan (EC, PPTC), Annual Supply-Demand Plans (PPTC), Transmission System Master Plan (GRIDCO), and Distribution Master Plan (ECG, NEDCo).

Challenges To RE Adoption;

Globally, RE penetration is affected by overall load growth, cost of other technologies, gas prices and RE capex, RE targets, and a decrease in average generation cost. 

Ghana’s power situation is saddled with serious challenges; the cost of generation significantly contributes to financial constraints in the sector, and variable fuel cost and supply also impact system reliability. 

Utility companies are burdened with payment for idle capacity charges while there is also high indebtedness to power utilities. Regardless of oversupply capacity, the country still feels the strain of recurrent power cuts. Strong demand, it is estimated, will resolve the oversupply issues in a few years ahead.

The renewable energy terrain in the country has generally been characterized by a lack of knowledge and technical skills in the sector, low-quality training, fewer or ineffective regulations, and a lack of financing. 

Extended and cumbersome transaction and approval processes, as well as unclear criteria and processes for government support of RE projects and land acquisition and access issues all, have served to obstruct the diffusion and use of renewable energy technologies (RETs) in Ghana. These indices, however, are gradually changing on account of some measures being put in place.

Interventions So Far;

Despite the identified setbacks, the country has made significant progress in achieving some targets since Paris. As it stands, electricity access in Ghana is 84% with a modern RE installed capacity (as of 2018) of 71.35MW. RE in the generation mix -including large hydro- is 1,647MW, representing 1.6%.

Relevant laws, strategic plans, and regulatory frameworks including the Renewable Energy Act 2011 (Act 831), and the RE Master Plan and targets have been developed together with some frameworks that have been put in place to ensure the attainment of these targets.

Modern Renewable energy penetration, in the meantime, has increased from 0.2% in 2015 to 3.9% toward the goal of 10% penetration by 2030. Utility Scale RE also increased from 2.5 MW to 48.6MW with distributed generation (grid-connected) rising from 0.4MW to 8.53MW. 

Mini-grid installations have increased from Zero to 325KW. Off-grid standalone installations have also shot up from 1.3MW to 7.2MW. Solar lanterns have multiplied from 20,000 units to 120,000 units while more significantly, the Scaling-up RE Program (SREP) investment plan of US$230,000 has been approved by the Climate Investment fund.

The governments of Ghana and the United States also jointly called and collaborated on the implementation of an Integrated Power Sector Master Plan (IPSMP) in the Partnership for Growth’s Joint Country Action Plan. The IPSMP’s vision is to develop a resilient power system to reliably meet Ghana’s growing power demand in a cost-effective manner that supports the country’s development.

Way forward;

Development partners advise Ghana to increase its RE adoption through policy, i.e. setting fixed targets while fully taking into consideration the characteristics of the power system as well as taking cognizance of the economic cost of driving these targets.

Again, since RE is predicated on power sector economics and is limited mostly to the utility side of the energy sector, careful considerations should be made about the power system dynamics. However, these two, a combination of both policy and economics might be more beneficial.

The IPSMP also recommends that the country “competitively procure solar PV and wind projects in the range of 20-50 MW, as it could result in lower end-user tariffs and increase know-how on the integration of variable RE plants. 

“That the country should also build dispatchable REs (biomass, small hydropower plants, MSW) capable of providing additional non-power benefits, such as irrigation, flood control, fisheries, waste management, etc., and direct the development of dispatchable RETs to augment the system by reducing losses, etc.”

To promote the shift to renewables, the price of renewable energy will have to be reduced to promote its quicker adoption in Africa, Ghana’s Minister of Energy, John-Peter Amewu told the International Renewable Agency (IRENA) and their partnering financial institutions while speaking on the theme, “Scaling up Renewable Energy Development in AFRICA” during a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Ghana is committed to achieving its National Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement “…and is happy to partner prospective investors in its ambitious clean energy transition. We have the right policy framework to guarantee a return on your investment” – assures Wisdom Togobo Ahiataku – Director of Alternative Energy at the Ministry of Energy.