Written By Gertrude A. Nyai - There is ongoing debate about Ghana’s energy supply. Some Ghanaians have maintained the issue is insufficient generating capacity, others have opined it is a problem of government’s inability to fulfill its financial obligation of procuring crude oil and natural gas to power thermal plants; hence the disruptive energy supply in Ghana.
Lately, the situation seems to have improved because government has increased installed capacities, most of which are fossil-fuel-powered thermal plants.
Thus there have not been major, prolonged and widespread power outages except a few isolated cases that are mostly short-lived. However, the question remains whether government can continue to increase installed capacities without defaulting on payments of procured fuel supplies.
Government, through the Energy Commission of Ghana, is championing solar projects for residential and commercial buildings. Advertisement of government’s incentive of free 500-watts-capacity solar panels for homes is making rounds in the media in Ghana. This initiative is laudable.
It will ease pressure on grid-supplied electricity and contribute to reducing the country’s carbon footprint. However, given Ghana’s growing population accompanied by growing energy demands plus growing industrialisation, it is altogether doubtful whether the aforementioned measures are enough to meaningfully offset the energy deficit looming over Ghana’s neck.
Rigorous energy management system
To contribute to the energy discourse, I propose a rigorous energy management system for Ghana as seen in developed countries such as The United State of America (USA), United Kingdom (UK), Australia and New Zealand.
Energy management can be likened to a single parent with children to feed, living on a tight budget, going to the grocery shop and buying just what is needful for the family to have a decent meal – unfazed by the flashiness of product packaging and the emptiness of advertising gimmicks.
To this end, a broader definition of energy management may be the measures put in place to produce and consume energy more wisely: conserve energy, reap savings in energy cost and protect the environment (climate protection).
I am aware of the argument that developing countries do not contribute significantly to climate change but how about the advantages of energy conservation and cost savings? If developed countries with huge emergency reserves are embarking on stern energy management measures, why should Ghana, a developing country with comparatively small energy demand and no viable emergency reserve, do any less?
High energy-rating standard
To this end, what should Ghana do? First, Ghana must embark on a high energy-rating standard for electrical equipment and gadgets imported into or manufactured in the country.
There is already in force the Energy Efficiency Standards and Labelling (Household Refrigerating Appliances) Regulations, 2009 which outlines requirements for minimum energy efficiency for household refrigerating appliances such as refrigerators and air-conditioners, and guidelines for the labelling of the appliances.
However, the regulation is only focused on making information available to the consumer and ends where implementation begins.
I doubt whether consumers pay attention, if any, to the energy information displayed on refrigerating appliances. Prior to drafting this article, I sampled the views of over 20 middle-class people who have purchased refrigerating appliances in the last five years.
None of them gave an affirmative response to having considered the energy efficiency information on appliances before making their purchases.
For many, their purchases were based on what fit into their budget and not the life cycle cost of operating the appliance in its lifespan. Thus it is not enough to have information readily available to consumers.
There is need for an energy efficiency policy which allows for a minimum three-Energy-Star rating of appliances to be imported or manufactured in Ghana.
This way, even if consumers do not consider the energy rating of the appliance they purchase or intend to purchase, they are assured of a minimum of three-energy-star by default. This has cost implication for the average Ghanaian earner, but they will reap better cost savings during the life cycle of the appliance.
Energy auditing of homes and companies
Secondly, there is need for energy auditing of homes and companies. Just as companies are required by law to audit their finances, they must be required to account for their energy consumption.
Energy audit involves assessing a facility’s consumption of energy to find out how, where, when and why energy is used and identify opportunities to save energy, as well as improve the efficient use thereof. The steps involved in energy auditing include metering and collecting energy consumption data; finding opportunities and implementing methods to save energy; and analysing and tracking meter data to assess the efficiency of energy management systems.
It has been shown that energy audits save as much as 30 per cent of a facility’s energy consumption. This should sensitise companies to consider energy audit since they benefit the most, as well as propel government to spearhead the cause to curb energy wastage. Offices with at least three levels (floors) will benefit from an energy audit.
At the current electricity tariff in Ghana, it will be prudent for homes consuming close to or in excess of a thousand kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity monthly to consider an energy audit. The rule is that the more energy a facility consumes, the more it stands to gain from an energy audit. Ghana will profit, if there are enforceable laws that guide energy audit implementation.
Training in energy efficiency
Finally, there is the need for training in energy efficiency. I have seen a list of appliances from the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the amount of electricity they consume, arranged from the least consuming to the most consuming. This is good in helping consumers know appliances to use to save energy but it does not point consumers to how they can identify energy-saving opportunities in their homes or offices.
Inasmuch as it is better to use kettle in heating water than using electric cooker for the same purpose, for large volumes of water, it may be more prudent to use gas-fired stove than kettle. Similarly, it is best for companies to hire a dedicated energy manager to see to energy issues instead of relying on property managers or maintenance managers with no training in energy management.