Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Power Outages Will Have A Catastrophic Effect On The Economy If Things Continue As They Are

The frustration of not being able to work because of power outages has led to incidents of violent protest by rampaging mobs, in which equipment and property belonging to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), have been damaged in parts of the country.

Such actions are counter-productive and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Violence of any kind can never be justified under any circumstances. We cannot have mob-rule in our country.

Having said that, it ought to be pointed out that power outages do have a  negative effect on productivity. And it will be extremely difficult for many companies to maintain their labour force numbers, if they are unable to operate regularly - as a result of power outages.

Some businesses have actually had to be shut down because of the unavailability of electricity. Many no longer find it economic to purchase fuel for their generators to provide electricity to sustain their operations during power outages.

That is why it so important that players in the power sector find creative ways to enable businesses to operate for reasonable periods during daylight hours.

In that regard, perhaps a second look ought to be taken at the suggestion by some that for the greater good of society, at a time such as the one we are currently going through, the Volta Aluminium Company Limited (Valco) should be temporarily shut down - as it will make more power available in the system during daylight hours.

Others have also suggested that it would be better to schedule power outages for residential areas during the night (say between  9pm and 9am)  if that is technically feasible. Many factories in industrial areas across the country, including Valco, could then have  night shift work to enable them to manufacture their products, if that were technically feasible.

Although that might not be feasible for now, clearly, the suggestion that some account ought to be taken of the need to ensure that regardless of the situation, as much as possible, businesses that need to, should be able to operate during daylight hours, makes sense. That ought to be the goal of the power companies in Ghana.

In the long-term, we cannot afford to continue to hamstring solar power companies in the country, which have an important energy-saving role to play, in ensuring that Ghana has an energy-mix, which generates sufficient power that is used efficiently to enable it to grow and prosper.

With the advances in storage technologies, for examople, off-grid energy independence is now possible - and a potential solution for communities,  households, businesses and instituions across Ghana. The solar power sector also has the potential to create thousands of jobs for Ghana's younger generation.

Above all, the solar power sub-sector offers entrepreneurial opportunities for business-minded  young people, nationwide.

The time has come to empower Ghana's renewable energy industry by making its entire value chain tax free. If that were the case, power outages at night would not be so irritating - as many homes would have light because their owners could afford to purchase solar power systems.

The availability of solar power to light buildings, and enable people to charge the batteries of their mobile devices, as well as watch television programmes during  power outages at night, for example, will be appreciated by many families, sundry businesses and students in educational institutions that have boarding facilities, right across the country.

Be that as it may, for now, the power companies must ensure that businesses across the nation, can operate for a minimum period during daylight hours - regardless of the situation currently faced by Ghana's power sector. The needs of the business community ought to be paramount during this crisis.  It will be catastrophic for the national economy if the current power crisis persists  - and power outages continue unabated in the same unscheduled and haphazard fashion.

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