Electricity access and power system planning is a complicated problem requiring the cooperation of many stakeholders.
August 13, 2019 by Dr. Destenie Nock
There are many equality and sustainability objectives intertwined in electricity planning. In 2018 Ghana had 0.3% of electricity generation and 0.5% of installed capacity coming from renewable energy (solar, excluding hydro). The target for the country was originally to have 10% renewable penetration by 2020, but with 2020 right around the corner this target has now been pushed back to 2030. With the renewable energy target, and the universal access target the country must ask itself which path they should take on the road to increasing electricity access. As a note the Ghanaian electricity system is primarily comprised of thermal (63.3%) and hydro (36.2%) generation capacity.
The question of "how should we increase electricity access is difficult because the definition is complicated and often disagreed upon. Electricity access has five primary categories: affordability, quantity, reliability, supply, and quality. When planning the power system you will not be able to improve all areas at once, so it is important to know how stakeholder's value systems impact power grid development. For example adding a power plant may increase supply of electricity in your area, and the amount of appliances you can use in your house, but the cost of electricity remains high and without proper investment in the transmission lines you may not be able to use electricity for 24 hours a day. Here an investment in the generation sector improves supply and quantity, while not improving reliability and cost.
The Sustainable Electricity-access Network for Africa (SEN-Africa) hosted the first stakeholder workshop in Ghana aimed at uncovering the trade-offs different stakeholders make when planning for investments into the electricity sector aimed at increasing electricity access. The Accra workshop (located at the University of Ghana) focused on asking stakeholders to make hypothetical decisions regarding electricity access goals, and their visions for improving the quality of life in Ghana. The team was fortunate to have 25 participants in the workshop representing the governmental, academic, and non-profit sectors.
During the workshop one of the takeaways was the desire to use electricity access as a way to drive economic activity. In electrification planning, sometimes there can be a heavy emphasis placed on lighting, and expanding household electricity access. Here many stakeholders were saying there is a need for reliable power in order to attract more industrial activity. This activity would then drive job creation, and create a more vibrant economy.
Another surprising reoccurring theme was the desire to use grid extension, and potentially nuclear, as the primary means for electrification. This results from nuclear being a low carbon emission source, and being able to generate a constant supply of power. A supply of low cost, highly reliable power would then be able (from the stakeholder's point of view) to drive industrial development.
There's a desire to use electricity access as driver of economic activity..it's not just about lights.
Now the SEN-Africa team is traveling North to Tamale to host the second stakeholder workshop, so more updates will follow.
The SEN-Africa Team is made up of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Ghana, University of Nairobi, University of Cape Town, and Argonne National Lab. For more information about the team please visit http://sen-africa.org/
This work is made possible by a grant from the Worldwide Universities Network.
Note about the Author: Dr. Destenie Nock is a member of the SEN-Africa team, and a post-doc (2019) and incoming assistant professor (2020) in the Engineering & Public Policy, and Civil & Environmental Engineering Departments at Carnegie Mellon University. She has been working in the international development field since 2012.