Consistent rises in power transmission losses have cost the economy more than US$150million in 10 years, an analysis of official energy industry data by the Institute for Energy Security (IES) has shown. What this means is that electric power consumers within households, industries and the commercial brackets paid US$150million more over 10 years for consuming the same amount of power due to inefficiencies in the system.
Ghana’s benchmark transmission loss of power in percentage terms to the gross electricity production allowed by the Public Utility Regulatory Commission (PURC) is 3.5 percent in gigawatts hour (GWh).
The 3.5 percent explains that all losses recorded in a production year that go beyond the 3.5 percent benchmark deteriorates the amount of power produced for transmission, thus becoming cost to the state transmission agency, GRIDCo, which is ultimately passed on to the consumer.
These inefficiencies, which are still prevalent, are mainly driven by the old 161kV transmission lines across the country; some were installed as far as the 1960s, and the limitation on the heavily loaded 161kV Volta-Achimota corridor that supplies power to the capital and its environs. Also, 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 were equally identified as contributing factors.
“The high losses have translated into a monetary loss in excess of US$150million over the decade. The conclusion was arrived at by striking the differences between the actual losses on annual basis and the loss benchmark (3.5%) set by the PURC, and multiplying the difference by the annual average end-user tariffs. This loss definitely impacts on the financial performance of GRIDCo,” Fritz Moses, a Research Analyst at the Institute for Energy Security (IES), explained to the B&FT.
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, ensure efficient transportation of electricity, add value to power generation, and ensure cheaper electricity supply to consumers.
Despite this capital investment in the power sector, without corresponding investment in the main electricity transporter, GRDICo, it will be incapable of executing critical projects which will make the national transmission system robust and improve the reliability of power supply.
“It may also negatively influence the company’s day-to-day operations and make it difficult for the transmitter to meet its financial obligations to financiers, contractors, suppliers and service providers among others.
“Though technically impossible to completely rid the transmission grid of losses, the provision of the needed investment in the sector would go a long way in beefing-up the system 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,” Mr. Moses added.
It is equally important to note that the growing debt owed the company by Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Northern Distribution Company (NEDCo) hampers the ability of GRIDCo to provide for itself modern equipment and infrastructure needed to increase efficiency in outputs.
A review of 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). 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.
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.