6 February 2013 – Rural electrification in Ghana 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. In 1989 the National Electrification Scheme (NES) policy was instituted 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). All possible options of electrification were considered including grid extension and off-grid renewable energy-based solutions such as biomass, solar, wind and 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%, says Andrew Barfour, project coordinator of the Ghana Energy Development & Access Project (GEDAP)

GEDAP 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).

This 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.

Barfour says the main challenges confronting rural electrification are the poverty level of the rural people, lack of adequate capital investment, strict conditionalities of development partners, and a lack of private capital

He says that among the lessons learned from the process is that 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.

“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,” he says.