Out of the dark: Ghana's power problems

The Akosombo Hydroelectric Power Station, Ghana The Akosombo Hydroelectric Power Station, Ghana Eunika Sopotnicka
03 Dec
2016
As a dried-up dam starts to refill, and a push towards cleaner, renewable energy gets underway, many are still asking if Ghana’s chronic power cuts will ever come to an end?

It is with nervous relief that Ghana is finally embracing an improvement to its ongoing electricity crisis. For the past five years, the country has been plagued with blackouts. In that time, small businesses have crumbled, families have relied on costly and polluting home generators, and, in hospitals, babies have been born by the glowing, blueish light of smartphones.

The crisis came mostly from a lack of supply. Ghana’s strong, growing economy, along with a rapidly urbanising population, has meant that demand for electricity has increased by 300 per cent in the past 50 years. To make matters worse, the supply that should have been available simply wasn’t there. Gas usually imported from Nigeria has been unreliable, thermal plants have not delivered on promises and, crucially, its prodigal Akosombo Dam has been running dry.

The solution must be to diversify the power, with an emphasis on solar and wind

‘The Akosombo Dam is the largest source of power in Ghana,’ says Dr Ishmael Ackah, Head of Policy at the Africa Centre for Energy Policy. ‘It makes up 27 per cent of Ghana’s capacity.’ Built in 1965, the dam was celebrated as a triumph of engineering and a symbol of the country’s recent independence. Lately, however, Akosombo has struggled. In 2015, six unusually dry months meant that its turbines had to work with water well below its minimum operating level. Lack of rainfall, few alternatives and high demand became a three-headed problem that kept Ghana in the dark.

‘The water level has risen again but the availability of gas continues to be a challenge,’ says Ackah. ‘The solution must be to diversify the power, with an emphasis on solar and wind.’ By 2020, the government hopes to generate ten per cent of its electricity from renewables, excluding the large amount already coming from hydro. More than just an environmentally noble solution, renewables would be more practical for Ghana. ‘They would help promote self-sufficiency in energy supply,’ explains Ackah. Plus, they can work off-grid: in the past year the government has dispatched 50,000 home solar systems and lanterns to rural communities.

This was published in the December 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Climate

Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya…

Geophoto

Who in their right mind wants to shoot with film…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Geophoto

Calling photographers passionate about capturing and sharing great images of…

Climate

Five experts weigh-in on the future of the Paris Agreement…

Oceans

Analysis into a killer whale found dead off the shores…

Geophoto

For the past ten years, the Chartered Institution of Water…

Geophoto

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, so it…

Oceans

Zafer Kizilkaya has been awarded the 2017 Whitley Gold Award…

Wildlife

John Kahekwa is the founder and general manager of the…

Polar

Recent observations of Arctic flora and fauna indicate major changes…

Oceans

A massive die-off of Australian mangrove forests is being attributed…

Energy

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Wildlife

The continuing adventures of Aaron Gekoski as he joins the…

Geophoto

What do Ethiopia’s ‘church forests’, the incipient HS2 high-speed rail…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues working alongside the Wildlife Rescue Unit

Geophoto

Today, the camera is regarded as an essential smartphone feature.…

Oceans

An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues his personal adventure into the wilds of…