Think Energy Summit (2021) Day 1
The summit brought together leaders from energy sector companies and academia to rub minds on the future of the sector as it relates to the UN SDGs 7 and 13. As one would expect, the three-day summit took off with very high expectations from the teeming participants that thronged the Kempinski Hotel Conference Hall. In a pre-summit interaction with the media, some of the participants had this to say:
Dr. Samuel Obour of the Sunyani Technical University said he hoped the summit would touch on the nagging issue of electricity wastage, particularly in government installations/offices, and suggested that sensors should be installed in all government buildings to automatically shut down power supply if there is no one in the office.
Professor Elias N.K.Sowley of Dr. Hilla Liman Technical University, Wa, expressed the worry that industry players are often sidelined during energy policy formulation and hoped the summit would touch on that area.
For his part, Dr. Edward Ayimey of Ho Technical University said he was happy that the issue of Windmill was going to be discussed at the summit as a key renewable energy source. Other participants who expressed anxiety included Justice Owusu of Takoradi Technical University and Jennifer Jaaga of the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR).
Keynote Address From Energy Minister
Speaking on behalf of the Energy Minister, the deputy energy minister in charge of Power, Hon. Mohammed Amin Adams, said the summit was very necessary, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the havoc it wrecked on the global economy.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 shook the entire world and the energy sector was no exception. According to the International Energy Agency, global energy demand in 2020 fell by 4%, which was the largest decline since World War II. Overall, oil demand also went down by almost 9% across the year”, he said; adding that the world is faced with uncertainties associated with the push for global transition towards cleaner energies.
The minister further disclosed that both the pandemic and the energy transition had taught the world that the global energy sector is, after all, not as resilient as one would think. He therefore urged CEOs to identify industrial enclaves in the country and ensure that they are fully and efficiently served with the energy intensity required for industrial activity and for future demands. He also unveiled government’s plans for the sector.
“In pursuit of sustained availability of energy, the Ministry understands that the current surplus generation capacity will be out-paced by demand in the next few years as the current economic recovery is returning our economy to steady growth. Government is therefore exploring different options to meet energy demand with sufficient reserve margin. In doing this, we are aware of our obligations under the Paris Agreement and the necessity to transition to cleaner energy sources.
To this end, Ghana’s medium strategy is to harness the abundant gas resources which have been discovered by investing in the gas infrastructure to ensure significant shift from oil-based power generation to gas-based power generation. In the long term however, the plan is to invest in nuclear power which is a cheaper and cleaner energy source to support our commitment to combat climate change and ensure continued availability of electricity to power our homes and industries” , he said, stressing that the Renewable Energy Act had been amended to ensure that companies whose operations result in the emission of greenhouse gas complement the global effort at climate change mitigation by investing in non-utility scale renewable technologies.
The minister concluded by challenging academia to delve more into research work that will meet the demands of the times and assured of the Ministry’s readiness to support any such endeavor.
“It is important to draw the attention of our universities and research institutions that our quest to achieve a climate resilient and efficient energy industry depends to a large extent on their ability to discover innovative technologies in the energy space. This is important because appropriate local technologies will reduce cost of energy to industrial, commercial and residential customers; and can help create jobs and business opportunities for our people. The Ministry of Energy is therefore ready to collaborate with academia to build an energy industry that delivers economic growth and development in our country. I wish to also call on the universities to establish specialized research centres, build technical capacity and introduce programmes to generate knowledge and develop new products for the growth of the energy industry”.
After the minister’s keynote address, representatives of GRIDCO, GOIL and GHANA GAS made the following remarks from the point of view of their outfits. While Mr. Benjamin Ntsim of GRIDCO hinted that the reliance on hydro-electricity is fast dwindling, Marcus Dake said GOIL would in the not too distant future start the manufacturing of bitumen for road construction in the country. The CEO of GHANA GAS, Dr. Ben Asante, described gas as a bridge fuel between fossil and renewable energy capable of meeting the country’s future energy needs.
Technical Session 1.1
Role of Energy Sector in achieving SDGs 7/13; Perspective from Industry
Panel: Dr. Ben Asante (Ghana Gas), Benjamin Ntsim (GRIDCO), Professor Kwadwo Adinkra-Appiah (Sunyani Technical University) and Professor Amoah (University of Environment and Sustainable Development-Somanya).
Dr. Asante showcased what he termed the ‘Power Supply Portfolio of Ghana’ where 60% of our current energy generation is thermal and 40% is hydro and other sources. Comparing gas to oil, he said gas is not only friendlier to the environment, but also cheaper.
According to him, to produce, say, 1,000 megawatts of electricity per year through gas, emissions are in the region of 1.3 million tons, as against 8.3 million tons when oil is used for the same purpose. On cost, he noted that while the country will need $33.3m to produce 1,000 megawatts, it will cost $70.1m to produce the same quantity of electricity if generated from oil. Other issues discussed included the fact that:
- Some 70 sites earmarked across the country as potentials for small hydro-projects are being depleted due largely to galamsey.
- There is the need for Industry and Academia to partner to look more into renewables and bridge the yawning gap between the two sectors. The current situation where graduates from technical universities require additional 4 years to ‘polish up’ and fit into practical field work at Ghana Gas or GRIDCO is unacceptable.
- Sunyani Technical University is looking into the production of electric vehicles.
- Even though technology may be changing with time, science hasn’t changed, hence the need to cling to scientific principles.
- The call for renewable sources of energy to replace fossils is commendable, but the fact still remains that windmill and solar alone are not enough to meet the requirements of VRA/GRIDCO.
Technical Session 1.2
The Role of Energy Policy Makers in addressing SDGs 7/13 (Challenges, Solutions & Future Plans)
Panel: Mr. Kodwo Ampadu (Energy Commission) and Ms. Henrietta Nkansah (Ministry of Energy).
The discussion touched on the following areas:
- Renewable energy is a ‘must-run’ that needs to be used the moment it is generated, and the country does not have that capacity presently.
- TOR has to be retrofitted to improve its Sulphur emissions, but that also comes with great financial cost.
- Cleaner fuels alone do not solve our pollution problems; our vehicles too must be serviced regularly.
- There are a lot of untapped energy sources in Africa, so why are we running with the world for renewables?
- The rising cost of LPG is negating efforts at stopping charcoal usage.
- Need to customize LPG to our environments (eg. Piping gas to the homes of some gated communities very important).
- Cutting the importation of used fridges, TVs, Air conditioners, etc is a wonderful idea; while the ones already in the system can be swapped with new ones. The old ones can then be recycled.
- Need to plant trees in every home and also promote the use of solar energy.
- OMCs must be positioned to consider biofuels.
- GRIDCO and government will have to do more in terms of skills development, excess capacity and over reliance on long transmission lines.
- While there’s always some intervention (such as removal of taxes and subsidy on pre-mix fuels), government has no control over world oil prices.
Renewable energy is good, but we must transition slowly.