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Exclusive interview with Ing. Andrew T. Barfour, Project Coordinator at the Ghana Energy Development and Access Project (GEDAP) at the Ghana Ministry of Energy in Accra.  Ing. Barfour will address African Utility Week in May on “Universal Access to Energy:  Ghana’s rural electrification programme – a case study”.

Andrew Barfour

Can we start with some background on what your position entails, the projects you are involved with etc.
I am the project coordinator of the Ghana Energy Development & Access Project (GEDAP), which is a US$312 million multi-donor funded project involving the World Bank, International Development Agency (IDA), Global Environment Facility (GEF), African Development Bank (AfDB), Global Partnership on Output-based Aid (GPOBA), Africa Catalytic Growth Fund (ACGF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SECO).

The development objective is to improve the operational efficiency of the power distribution system and increase the population’s access to electricity and help transition Ghana to a low-carbon economy through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The project involves improving the distribution system in the urban communities and increasing rural access through grid extension, intensification and off-grid solar installations. The project also seeks to improve the capacities of the regulatory agencies.

The main beneficiary agencies are the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), Northern Electricity Distribution Company (Nedcor), Energy Commission (EC), Public Utility   Regulatory Commission (PURC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Energy (Moan).

Can you give us some background on the electrification programmed itself, the scale etc?
Rural Electrification was initiated in 1970. About 70 communities benefited from the installation of diesel generating plants with corresponding distribution networks Beneficiary communities contributed about 1% of the capital cost.

The National Electrification Scheme (NES) policy was instituted in 1989 to replace the 1970 policy. National electrification access was then about 25%. The goal of the NES is to extend reliable electricity supply to all communities over a 30-year period (1990 − 2020). The aim was to enhance socio-economic development nationwide; and to reduce level of poverty nationwide, particularly in the rural areas. All possible options of electrification were considered including grid extension and off-grid renewable energy-based solutions such as biomass, solar, wind & small hydro. Sixty-nine grid-based electrification project packages were identified and prioritised for implementation over six five-year phases.

The Self-Help Electrification Programme (SHEP) was introduced by government to encourage communal participation and the self-help developmental initiatives of communities and to support the main NES.

The National Electrification Access currently stands at 72%.

What are the main challenges?
The main challenges confronting the Rural Electrification are:

  • Poverty level of the rural people
  • Lack of adequate capital investment
  • Strict conditionalities of development partners
  • Lack of private capital

Do you have a specific timeframe, how far is this?
The timeframe for NES to achieve universal access is 2020.

Do you have any specific success stories/highlights you can share?
Ghana has as at now achieved 72% electrification access which is about the highest in sub-Saharan Africa. The commitment of various governments towards the success of the programme and the contribution of SHEP has helped in the phenomenal success. The contribution and collaboration of our development partners has also contributed immensely to the success of the programme.

Has this process inspired you or tired you?  
The successes chalked up over the years have certainly motivated me to help in reaching the set objective of universal access within the set timelines.

What has been the most surprising aspect so far?
Despite the poverty in the rural areas, the commitment, drive, and acceptance of the SHEP programme certainly pleasantly surprised the managers of the programme.  At a point the government could not keep up with the communities who were ready to join the programme.

What do you believe other African countries and utilities can learn from Ghana’s experiences?
There must be the political will to envision electrification as a national priority and catalyst for economic development. This would require an initiation of a policy drive to move the entire process.

Sources of financing would have to identified and also ensure there is a steady flow for funds for its success.

A proper implementation plan phased out over the period should be developed. This could include the preparation of a National Electrification Master Plan (NEMP) with a mixed technology approach and a holistic approach to embrace generation, transmission and distribution systems.

Community involvement or participation is absolutely key and the use of local capacity i.e. local consultants and contractors is also encouraged.

What will be your main message at African Utility Week?
In this modern world electrification cannot be over emphasised and therefore all countries must endeavour to ensure that electricity is extended to all corners of the continent if we want the economic circumstances of our people to improve for the better.