The Volta River Authority (VRA) Academy, in partnership with West Africa Power Pool (WAPP), has commenced a five-day training programme in solar renewable energy for selected stakeholders from about 10 countries in the West African sub-region to advance generation capacity and maintenance.
The training programme, which is funded by the World Bank under the theme ‘Maintenance and performance monitoring of solar energy generation facilities’, is aimed at providing hands-on operational ability in renewable energy, especially solar, for professionals among members of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – with the consciousness of moving away from the fossil fuels that are harming the environment to clean energy.
The 24 participants forming this first cohort of the professional qualification certification programme taking place at the VRA Academy are from about 10 West African countries including Benin, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Ghana.
According to the representative of WAPP, Francis Sempore, this capacity building programme is a component of the West Africa Solar Park Development Project (WASPDP) targetted at supporting a harmonised and systemic regional approach to scaling-up competitive and large-scale production – with a view to reducing the cost of electricity through operating solar generation facilities, and to increase the part solar plays in the energy mix.
He emphasised that renewable energy has taken centre-stage in an era of climate change consciousness, hence the importance of understanding the renewable energy operation and management system. However, the sub-region lacks the capacity for such an initiative; a situation that influenced the WAPP, World Bank and all other partners to embark on such an exercise to build capacity.
The Head of VRA Academy, Kingsley Gyamfi, indicated that VRA currently has two solar parks and is doing well in line with development and operationalisation of solar energy; and as an organisation that prides itself as a Centre of Excellence in West Africa, training other professionals is important on their agenda.
“With this arrangement, when they are done with the training they will be certified as trainers and go back to their country to train their people; but they must also be on the ground to deliver in the management of solar.”
Chief Executive of VRA, Ing. Emmanuel Antwi-Darkwa, in a speech read on his behalf at the opening ceremony of the training programme by Deputy Chief Executive-Services, Dr. Stella Agyenim-Boateng, stated that at the training’s end, individuals from the different countries will have acquired additional knowledge and return to their various workplaces with broadened capacities and horizons to advance the course of operational efficiency – which has become the hallmark of power utilities in the sub-region.
“The overall objective of the training and certification programme being implemented at the designated centres of excellence is to have a pool of experts capable of carrying out the preparation, implementation, operation and maintenance of solar energy production facilities in ECOWAS countries,” he said.
“VRA is a member of WAPP and the VRA Academy has been certified as Centre of Excellence, and we have played a continuous role in training professionals in the sub-region. We are scaling up our solar generation capacity even as we are training experts, because it is going to take a role in the country’s energy mix. Beyond hydro and thermal, solar is the next big player in that mix,” Dr. Agyenim-Boateng said.