The nation’s industrialisation agenda is the main pull-factor for the consideration of nuclear energy to be added to the energy mix, Board Chairman of Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG), Fred Oware has said – noting that even though there are many uses of nuclear energy, the country is considering the move as it assures “reliable, cheap, accessible and continuous power all year round”.
Speaking exclusively to the B&FT in an interview, Mr. Oware said the country has done a lot of analysis and realised that it would be expensive to continue with the current state of energy mix as the management cost of power supply keeps rising. For him, sustainable economic growth depends hugely on power, and the government is working to secure enough power to propel its future growth.
“Energy is central to development. If you are looking around the entire globe, there is no country that developed without energy; but it must be accessible, reliable and cheap, and it must be continuous. We need to understand that if we are going to develop as an industrial country, we need a cheap, reliable and continuous flow of energy,” Mr. Oware said.
Nuclear versus Renewables
He added that the nation has never and will never shy away from renewable energy, and as matter of fact a portion of renewables has been allocated to the country’s energy mix and efforts are ongoing to achieve that goal; but the industrialisation agenda, with the growing domestic energy needs of the country, requires power that is dependable and less costly.
“Some say renewables: it is good to have renewables, but renewables comprise energy that depends on nature. With solar, if the sun doesn’t shine you don’t have power. If there is dust in the wind and it compromises the quality of wind power, it can’t produce the energy you need. With hydro, if the season is dry and the water level goes down there is nothing you can do. To move away from renewable is to go thermal and use gas or some other forms of fuel which are also very expensive.
“If you are going to develop and you are increasing your baseload to 4,000 or 5,000 megawatts and you say you are going to rely on the sun or a river or expensive fuel, then you are not really ready for proper growth as it should be seen. The only alternative, and also taking environmental issues along, is nuclear,” Mr. Oware explained.
He added that with nuclear, once your fuel – uranium – is secured and the plant starts working, “you can be certain that for 12-18 months you have a constant, reliable supply of electricity. You will not need to switch it on and off as is done for hydro or other renewable energy sources as a means of stabilising the energy load to prevent fluctuations”.
The Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof. Benjamin J.B. Nyarko, believes this is the time that the nation should show itself as an energy powerhouse in the sub-region.
“Ghana should strive to maintain its position as the energy hub of West Africa. We have to do it to push our industrialisation agenda and also sell more power to our neighbours to generate good revenue. We are strategically positioned and we can take advantage of that,” Prof. Nyarko said.
For him, some major economic decisions have already been made, and those decisions will need enough energy to support them. “We are building our railway system and we are thinking of moving away from locomotive trains to electric-powered trains; we are having more electric cars produced globally, some of them are in Ghana; we need power for them.
“We have One District, One Factory (1D1F) and then there is the plan for our bauxite to go through Valco and Aluworks so that plates can be manufactured for the assembling of cars. It is clear that more power, at an affordable price and reliability, is needed to propel economic growth – and nuclear power gets us there,” Prof. Nyarko intimated.
According to a Centre for Policy Analysis (CEPA) and a Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning report, the power rationing exercise experienced in Ghana from 2007 to 2008 accounted for the drop in the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP from 9.5 percent in 2006 to 7.4 percent in 2008.
The data got worse during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which also witnessed significant power rationing. Also, the Association of Ghana Industries’s (AGI) Afrobarometer reports have over the years cited cost and unreliable electricity supply as one of the major issues affecting the manufacturing sector.
Some energy experts have projected that total electricity use in Ghana will rise from 3,721.7GWh in 2008 to 65,239.6KWh by 2030 – with industry’s demand for power estimated to rise from 3,433.1KWh to 50,145.6KWh within the period. The high projected increase in energy demand requires a significant step-up in both private and public investments toward expanding the operational power generation capacity.