In a series write-up, Nafisa Mohammed reviews state-owned institutions in Ghana and how they are serving the nation...or maybe not. Part II The fina
In a series write-up, Nafisa Mohammed reviews state-owned institutions in Ghana and how they are serving the nation…or maybe not.
The final part of ‘The ECG Saga’ (continued). Read Part I here.
Many ‘experts’ have proffered diverse solutions to the continuing problems of electricity supply in Ghana in both quantitative and qualitative terms. One advice which seems to run across most of these solutions is to privatize the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). As in, wash off government hands from it and leave it in the hands of private individuals who are free from government influence.
That call seems to resonate well with the government as just recently President John Dramani Mahama brokered a deal with the United States of America under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The corporation under the Millenium Challenge Account (MCA) seeks to invest almost $500 million to support in the transformation of Ghana’s power sector under a five-year period. This ultimately translates in the stimulating of private and individual investments in the power sector in Ghana.
At the core of this arrangement is a total albeit gradual transformation of ECG with regards to technological improvements and efficiency in power distribution so as to be able to meet electricity demands in Ghana and maybe beyond.
Ofcourse as it is with every issue in Ghana, the people are divided. Whilst one part has lauded the idea because they think the monopoly in the power sector has rendered it complacent and incompetent, the other part has taken a more skeptical approach. At the fore-front of this skepticism are workers of the ECG who are harboring fears of being laid off if this concessionaire truly manifests. The president has given assurance to these workers that no staff will be laid off with the implementation of the deal. However in my opinion, that is just playing politics!
In all honesty, I don’t only think most of the workers at ECG will need to be laid off, but it will be necessary as well. I think their fear of losing their jobs is rightly justified as they know they will be redundant under able and efficient management. I don’t only think that. I also think more than 90% of all government workers are redundant and are just being payed salaries just because their names are on their organizations’ payroll. But I digress…
The heart of this write-up is to look at solutions to the power woes in Ghana, at least how to have uninterrupted supply of it. So far, the only solution that I whole-heartedly agree with is not one made by the government, nor the opposition. It is one made by an individual. Some experts have echoed it in the past, though nothing substantial has been made of it yet.
Most of us know David Ampofo as a veteran journalist and one of the ground-breakers in terms of radio and television reporting. He won the 1988 ‘Journalist Of The Year’ award and has chalked other successes both locally and internationally.
I was privileged to have met Mr David Ampofo in my last semester at the university when studying for my first degree. I had to take a practical course in Journalism that semester and as part of the course, we interviewed distinguished individuals in the school’s radio studio. One of those distinguished individuals was David Ampofo, the host of prime time television Time with David.
For those who don’t know, after leaving mainstream journalism, David Ampofo founded ‘Channel Two Communications’ . Through that, he has headed and broadcasted some investigative and documentary reports, primarily on environmental issues and it’s impacts on our quality of lives.
So we interviewed David Ampofo on one of his documentaries, ‘Power Crisis’, and the talk came around whether there could ever be a permanent solution to our power problems in Ghana. Two things he said have stuck with me since that interview almost two years ago.
This is a hardly-trodden terrain when talks about Ghana’s power sector are being held. In fact, David opened up that possibility of a solution to me for the first time. Solar energy. In other words, using the sunlight to generate energy and in our case electricity. Sounds easy right? Makes one wonder why this path is heard little of…
David espoused the need to utilize sunlight, which we in the tropics here have abundance of all year round, into a renewable power source. The advantages abound in so many ways that hydro and thermal power fall short; saves money, provides energy security and independence, reliable and more eco-friendly.
There have been giant strides by the so-called developed countries in solar-generated energy that cities are entirely powered by solar panel systems. Of course this does not come cheap as one of the downside to solar-generated energy is the initial cost of the set up. However, that initial high cost sets the precedence of a long-lasting solution to the power crisis we all want gone. I think if any Ghanaian president wants to leave a legacy for prosperity, I think that president should look no further than investing into this source of renewable and sustainable energy-generation means.
So this is more of a behavioral change than a solution to the power problems in Ghana. However David believes that by this adjustment, half of our problems would be over already. David spoke with so much passion about how Ghanaians waste electricity, just like we do water, and that the only difference with electricity wastage is that it is not as physically felt and seen like water wastage.
Imagine this: You are ironing ten shirts. In between each shirt, you have to spend at least a minute to attach each ironed shirt to a clothes hanger, hang said shirt in the wardrobe and then come back to iron another. Mean while the iron stays on. That’s wastage. Multiply one minute by ten and that gives ten whole minutes of NOT using the iron for it’s purpose, even though it is on and consuming electricity.
Second scenario: Some houses have their light bulbs constantly on in most rooms even during the day, when it is not needed. Shops leave their lights on Saturday nights, knowing very well they won’t be open on Sundays. So Sunday morning comes and the bulbs are still on till Monday.
Another scenario: A big office complex, ten storeys high. Huge glass windows on all floors FOR EVER closed shut with drapes and curtains, allowing neither natural light nor ventilation to pass through. Air conditioning on full blast, light bulbs switched on every corner, every room.
Now, air conditioning could be reserved on only hot days and fans substituted (or not) if only the huge windows were left open. No need for the lights to be on with the window open, except when necessary. The above scenarios sum up our daily domestic and professional attitudes to how we use and waste electricity. Whilst this may not necessarily translate into solving our power problems, it could go a long way to unburden our power sources which are already being stretched to their utmost ends.
David said he doesn’t have a curtain in his office because he sees no reason why he has windows only to be blinded by curtains.
Another wastage of electricity come in the form of streetlights. Have you ever wondered why some streetlights stay on during the day, when they are of no use to anyone? Sounds familiar right? I know I do. I know I shudder every time I pass by a streetlight which is visibly on in the day time and I think, “What is wrong with us?!” Sad is what it is!
I am big on taking baby steps, because who has ALL the means anyway? So, a way is devised for our streetlights to be entirely dependent on solar power and saving that power ONLY when it’s dark, that is a beginning. A beginning which may ultimately translate into major cities in Ghana powered by the sun, then regions, then the whole country. We could even have excesses to want to export to our neighbor countries…
THE ULTIMATE CHANGE
All these answers by way of a solution will be moot if consumer satisfaction is not at the top of the priority list of ECG. What will uninterrupted power supply benefit anyone if they have to join long queues for units of electricity credit? Nada! Solar powered panels will help Ghana naught if access to electricity Is restricted only to urban towns and cities.
ECG has outlined some major reforms soon to be rolled out in the organization’s dealings with the populace to bring some kind of relief and satisfaction; introduction of recharge cards to power prepaid meters, mobile money platforms for the payment of bills, emergency credit for customers whose credit exhaust at night and bulk text messaging to announce impending shutdowns to customers. Ok! If only all those are in existence already, life would be so much fun in Ghana!
Who knows, maybe the pact between Ghana and the MCC is the way to go considering our power status now. However, it’s good to know that there are other options we can use to help ourselves…
Latest posts by Nafisa Mohammed (see all)
- ECG In Retrospect: Privatization, Behavioral Changes And Solutions - October 17, 2016
- The Ghanaian Customer Experience: Putting Public Services In Retrospect - May 15, 2016
- Skolom: Sena Dagadu Pledges Never To Expire - February 29, 2016