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Boakye Agyarko, Energy Minister

Electricity consumption and the quality of life in Ghana


THE RATE of electricity consumption of a country is taken as a measure of its quality of life. Hence the immense inequalities that exit between nations, as stated in the 10th goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), can be perceived readily. This correlation between electricity consumption and quality of life of nations is especially factual for lower and medium income countries. Hence we can use that to underscore:

  1. The ever-growing huge gap between the rich in the west and poor Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, and
  2. How far Ghana has been left behind, by its close competitors in the 1960s, namely Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

In our discussions, South Africa, which alone accounted for more than 50% of electricity consumed in Africa in the 1980s, is not in the group of SSA countries. Hence SSA means Africa without South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia.

To make it convenient to have very comprehensive discussions, reference is made to a special table posted on the website in 2006 by the Energy Information Administration based in Washington DC. The table presented a comparison of data on World Total Net Electricity Consumptionfor the years- 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2004 respectively. The abridged version of the table is as shown below.

In those years, South Africa and the five North African nations as provided in the table, accounted for about 78% of electricity consumed in Africa as compared to only 22% for some 47 nations in SSA, including Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa. The table also shows that, electricity consumption in SSA was less than that of Sweden, a rather small advanced country.

The table provided data for only eight (8) SSA countries, namely Cameroon, D.R. Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabweas well as countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and China. The data presented clearly shows that electricity consumption grew steadily in all the listed countries except those in SSA, where it grew sluggishly. In every ten years the growth tripled in the listed Asian countries and nearly doubled in South Africa and the 5 North African countries. In the case of the SSA countries, the growth doubled in 24 years in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria, but not in DR Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For instance, electricity consumption in 1980 of 1.33TWh and 1.59TWh in Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire respectively, increased to 3.65TWh and 3.20TWh respectively in 2004, as compared to the growth of 3.94TWh – 5.13TWh and 4.50TWh – 7.09TWh for DR. Congo and Ghana respectively.

 Electricity Consumption per Capita (ECPC)

Electricity consumption per capita is perhaps a better way to describe the abject energy poverty in SSA. Once again, it is worthwhile to refer toa table on “The Correlation between the Human Development Index (HDI) and Electricity Consumption per Capita (ECPC)” posted on the websiteby the World Bank in 2002 or so. Here also, data comparison was made for countries, including 4 SSA countries that are listed according to their HDI ranking numbers.

The countries with their corresponding HDI ranking numbers written in bracket are, Sweden (3), South Korea (30), Malaysia (58), South Africa (111), Egypt (120), Morocco (126), Ghana (129), Cameroon (146), Kenya (146) and Nigeria (152).

In the period of 20 years from 1980 to 2000, ECPC grew in all the listed countries except that of Ghana.Within the period, Ghana’s ECPC of 424kWh for the year 1980,which was higher than 223 and 380kWh for Morocco and Egypt respectively, plunged down to 288kWh. One important observation that could be made from the table is that, the highest growth of ECPC was in South Korea and Malaysia where ECPC grew from 859 and 631kWh to 5607 and 2626kWh respectively. In contrast, ECPC in Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria grew from 154, 92 and 68kWh to 183, 106 and 81kWh respectively. Note that the huge gap between the values of ECPC for South Korea and Malaysia on one side, and that of Ghana and SSA countries on the other.

In 2015, Ghana’s ECPC declined through 241 to 206kWh, while those for Kenya and Nigeria grew through 133 to 137kWh and 107 to 115kWh respectively in 2015. The ECPC ranking for Cameroon (171), Ghana (177), Kenya (184) and Nigeria (188) were worse than those in the year 2000. As a matter of interest, ECPC in kWh and ranking numbers for Ghana’simmediate neighboring countries,La Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso, were: (189, 177), (92, 192), (86, 194) and (42, 207) respectively.


In a sharp contrast, ECPC in the Asian countries increased remarkably that, South Korea’s ECPC values of over 9000kWh in 2012 and 2015 are higher than those for several countries in the Group of 7 or 8. Malaysia’s ECPC of 3724kWh in 2015 is a clear and significantlyreflection of how far Ghana has been left behind by its competitors in the 1960s.It should be underlined that the worst ECPC data down to 7kWh are found mainly in SSA.

Over-Dependency on Biomass and the Importance of SDG 7

The over-dependency on biomass in SSA, which underlines the abject poverty in SSA, is very detrimental to our health. Burning ofcharcoal in indoor kitchens in urban areas is the main source of indoor pollution of obnoxious gases that are injurious primarily to the health of mothers and their weaning babies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), such pollutions leadto ill-health and thousands of premature deaths from lung cancer and other respiratory infections, and may aggravate prenatal problems. That is why the 7th goal or SDG 7 of the SDGs that ensures universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030, could be taken as the most fundamental goal out of the 17 goals of the SDGs.

Let’s note that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted at the dawn of this millennium in 2000, did not have a goal for energy, a resource which has direct or indirect links with many of the goals. For instance in the SDGs, SDG-7 is linked to many of the goals, with special reference to SDG-8 on “Decent Work and Economic Growth”, which is linked directly to SDG-1 and 2 on “No Poverty” and “End Hunger” respectively. We can also add that when electricity is made reliable and so affordable to replace charcoal, the main source of domestic energy for cooking, it would go a long way to:

  • improve the health of mothers and their babies(SDG-3)
  • reduce substantially the nation’s health budget, leading to improving its reserves (SDG-1)
  • lessen the disturbingly rapid rate of deforestation to save our forests, – the carbon-sink, which plays a very important role in the quest to save our planet (SDG-13),
  • guarantee much longer operating life time for essential electrical appliances used in hospitals, institutions and in our homes (SDG-1), and
  • initiate a complete emancipation of women in SSA., which could be possible when their household chores are made easier by reliable and affordable electricity(SDG-5). Note: the emancipation of women in the west was made possible with the help of electricity.

When the SDGs were adopted in 2015, Ghana (President John Mahama) and Norway (Prime Minister Ms. Ema Stolberg) were appointed as Co-Chairs for a group of eminent advocates to see to the implementation of the SDGs, leaving no one behind. We shall however discuss much later that renewables, promoted in SDG-7, can’t be described as reliable and affordable. It must be underscored that Nuclear Power (NP), not mentioned in SDG-7, is the first choice for baseload generation simply because it is clean and generates reliable and affordable electricity more abundantly than any other option.

Since HP is limited, further deployment of renewables would be arguably dominated mainly by WP and SP which are free and inexhaustible. Bur it must be said that wind and wind energies are so diluted that their material and land requirements are so huge that they hardly produce affordable electricity. Besides, their worse limitation is their intermittency which lead them to produce non dispatch-able electricity, or in simple terms, unreliable electricity for the grid. So it is misleading to describe renewables which have to be operated with backups and/or storage systems as reliable and affordable in SDG-7. Let’s note that NP, not mentioned in SDG-7, is the first choice for baseload generation simply because it is clean and generates reliable and affordable electricity more abundantly than any other option

Furthermore NP has a better operating safety record than all the options for power generation including Solar Power (SP) and Wind Power (WP), fraught with real danger. Whereas nobody died from the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, and there have been since then no deaths attributable to NP, it can be found on,,

that,  the number of fatal accidents associated with WP in 2011 was15. And since then and up to the end of May, 2017, there have been 55 fatal accidents attributed to WP, with fatalities possibly higher than 55.

Opinions from Our Authoritative Energy Experts


It is very appropriate to discuss the opinions about energy situation expressed once by the former CEOs of VRA, Dr. Wereko-Brobbey and his immediate predecessor Mr. Dokyi. In the latter half of 2013, when Dr. WerekoBrobbey was speaking at a public forum on the 2014 budget after a sharp increase in electricity tariffs.He made the following statements: (1)“Increase our energy intensity at least ten folds”, and (2) “Ghanaians should accept the realistic tariffs”. The first statement is very relevant from the ECPC values of 204 and 3724kW in 2015 for Ghana and Malaysia respectively.It highlights that Ghana,should be proactive in tacklingher power deficiency in a massive way. However, no clue for generating options was given. Let’s note that generating options have capacity factors which range from about 90% for NP down to 25-35% for WP and about 20-25% for SP. Since WP and SP are variable and intermittent, theydo not produce dispatch-able electricity for the grid.


In another occasion in 2002 at the meeting of ECOWAS Energy Ministers, Dr. Wereko-Brobbey stated that,“The tendency has been to withdraw into our own little boundaries in the mistaken belief that we can isolate, resolve and sustain our national power needs”. Compare this to a statement made bythat ofMr. Dokyiin 2000 at a similar meeting that: “Our economies can only succeed in a highly competitive world if we support them with reliable, technologically efficient and effective power systems”. He went on to add that: “No country can make it alone”. Let’s note that, when these statements were made, Ghana was operating both Hydro Power (HP) and thermal power plants. Since SP and WP can’t be described as reliable, efficient and effective technologies, and so by elimination, we are left with NP, whose capital cost poses an appreciableis an insurmountable barrier to almost all the ECOWAS countries with weak and fragmented economies, but could be possible as a sub-regional project.


This idea of sub-regional co-operation was also made in 2007 by Mr. Robert Zoellick, the former President of the World Bank in Accra, the first stop of his familiarization tour a week before he took his appointment. He arrived in Ghana during a serious power crisis, when power supply was made alternatively available from 6am-6pm for one half of the population. That obviously influenced Mr. Zoellick who said to the Finance Ministers in West Africa that: “It is the expectation of the World Bank and other multilateral financiers to see African countries focus on common goals and have an integrated and regional approach to dealing with their challenges because it makes it easier for the financiers”.

Tariff and Production Cost


Let’s note that Tariff=Production Cost + (Transmission & Distribution Costs) +Tax & Levies, where Production Cost=Capital Cost+ Operation & Maintenance Cost +Fuel Cost. Production cost, which may account for about 50-70% of the tariff, tends to be lower due to (1) economies of scale, and (2) capacity factor of generating options. NP, usually built with large installed capacity has very high capacity factor. Furthermore fuel cost for NP is very low, and that is why NP produces clean, reliable and affordable electricity more abundantly than any other option.


Justification for Scaling Up Power Production


The Universal Paris Agreement on Climate Change adopted in 2015 calls for a complete phase-out of fossil fuel from all the economic sectors. Hence we have to move aggressively to scale up reliable and affordable electricity, which is also essential (1) to power modern safe and fast trains which don’t pollute and are cheaper than road transportation, (2) to make Ghana the hub of reliable and affordable power supply in our sub-region not only for the sake of good neigh- boringness, but for also economic gains and (3) to kick-start the Comprehensive Aluminum Industry (CAI), the most cherished flagstaff project in Ghana.


The CAI is made up of (1) mining our own bauxite, (2) refining the bauxite into alumina, (3) smelting the alumina into aluminum ingots at VALCO, and (4) using the aluminum ingots to fabricate in Ghana several essential aluminum products. When VALCO was operating only the smelting stage at its full capacity, it benefited greatly its owners and Ghana, even though the alumina was imported from Jamaica and the bulk of resulting aluminum ingots were shipped to the USA. VALCO is now in our hands, so Ghana has the potential to create well-paid jobs to boost our economy. This can be used to justify the need for a major project for reliable and abundant electricity at affordable cost.

By Dr Isaac Newton Acquah

Former Scientific Staff, GAEC

Former Safeguard Inspector, IAEA

About michael adjei

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