Power transmission losses on the rise – IES analysis shows


Power transmission losses within the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) system keep surging to 2013 highs and possibly beyond – far in excess of the allowable loss margin, an analysis of official data by the Institute for Energy Security (IES) has shown.

Review of the Electricity Supply Plans from the Energy Commission (EC) and data from the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo) indicate that since 2008 the rate of transmission losses from total generated power keeps rising above the allowable margin of 3.5 percent in gigawatts hour (GWh) stipulated by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) ― largely due to inefficiencies in the transmission system.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Ghana recorded transmission losses of 380GWh, 531GWh and 522GWh respectively, representing 3.7 percent, 4.7 percent and 4.3 percent of total annual power transmitted.

The worrying upward trend showed that 2015 was the only year that transmission losses came close to the PURC benchmark. Aside from that, the country has been recording losses of 4.4 percent on average terms. After dipping to 4.1 percent in 2017 from 4.4 percent in 2016, the country’s power transmission loss is seeing yet another sharp rise – recording a loss of 4.7 percent in 2019.

In absolute numbers, the amount of power lost to transmission has seen an incremental rise over the last decade. In 2019, for instance, the amount of electricity loss was recorded as 844GWh; a growth of 16.2 percent over 2018 losses, and 30.5 percent over year 2017 loss figures.

The only year that experienced a dip in losses was year 2015, when the total electricity made available for gross transmission was only 11,692GWh, as against 13,071GWh in 2014 and 12,927GWh in 2013; i.e. 1,379GWh (about 12%) less than in 2014 and 1,235GWh (approximately 11%) less in 2013.

Fritz Moses, a Research Analyst at IES, noted that this transmission challenge for electricity has been proven to contribute to the key factors which stall progress of the power sector and economy as a whole; because the indices of economic growth in many cases rely on the ability to continually enjoy sustained and efficient electricity power supply.

“Transmission loss measures the power lost in the transport of high-voltage electricity from power generators to medium-voltage power distributors (trading economics). This in simple terms means that transmission losses are calculated as a percentage of the gross electricity production for the entire period under review.

“The losses in any transmission system are mainly in response to technical inefficiencies. It has been identified that the technical losses in Ghana’s power sector result mainly from the continued use of obsolete and faulty equipment which include switchgear, transformers, transmission lines, among many others.

“It is instructive to note that until date, some equipment and parts used for the transmission of power in Ghana date as far back as the 1960s – a clear recipe for power transmission losses in the sector,” he told the B&FT in an interview.

He explained that a review of state documents identified that with the Aboadze (West) enclave being the biggest generation enclave with an installed capacity of approximately 1540MW, transmission system losses are always higher than the benchmark because maximised power generation is extended as far as the Bono, Bono-East and Ahafo Regions from the West enclave.

“Aside from longer transmission lines, the transmission loss increases were found to be driven by the old 161kV transmission lines in the west, and the limitations on the heavily loaded 161kV Volta-Achimota corridor that supplies power to the capital and its environs.

“The over-loading of 330/161kV autotransformers within Tema; congestion on the 161kV Anwomaso-Kumasi transmission line linking the 330/161kV infrastructure; and unavailability of the 40MVar STATCOM at Tamale etc. were equally identified as contributing factors,” he said.

The energy analyst added that any loss above the 3.5 percent benchmark deteriorates the amount of power produced for transmission, thus becoming a cost for the state transmission agency, GRIDCo.

“This cost is owed to the production agencies in Ghana, including the Volta River Authority (VRA) and other Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The country’s best performance in managing losses within the grid were recorded over a decade ago, when the transmission losses recorded was 3.5 percent for both year 2007 and 2008. These results fell right in line with the transmission loss benchmark of the country, and did not come at a cost to the country’s power transmission agency, GRIDCo.

“However, since the year 2009, the percentage transmission loss in Ghana’s power sector has risen beyond the allowable of 3.5 percent. In 2009, for instance, the country lost approximately 343GWh of electricity transmitted, representing 3.8 percent of a total 8,958GWh transmitted,” he pointed out.’

Cumulatively, the analysis showed that over the last decade the amount of power lost in transmission is in excess of 5,700GWh of the approximately 133,156GWh transmitted within the period. The 5,700GWh of power lost over the 10-year period is equivalent to one-third of the total power transmitted for consumption in 2019.

It is important, he noted, that the growing debt owed GRIDCo by the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Northern Distribution Company (NEDCo) hampers the ability of GRIDCo to provide for themselves modern equipment and infrastructures needed to increase efficiency in outputs.

“Though it’s technically impossible to completely rid the transmission grid of losses, provision of the needed investment in the sector would go a long way in beefing-up the system’s efficiency and ensuring value-for-money (VFM). The focus must be on attaining either the 3.5 percent benchmark set by the PURC or anything below,” he said.

It must be noted that government recently announced that it has approved US$130million for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to help the power generating firm replace its obsolete equipment, to reduce power losses and ensure sustainable power generation.

John Peter Amewu, the Minister of Energy who made this known when he took his turn at the Nation Building Updates in Accra earlier this month, said it will ensure efficient transportation of electricity, add value to power generation and ensure cheaper electricity supply to consumers.

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