Barriers to sustainable electrical energy transition in Ghana


Virtual via Zoom, 5 November 2020

Speaker: Dr. Paul Osei-Tutu, KNUST

Renewable electrical energy is an important policy objective in Ghana, as communicated in Ghana’s Renewable Energy Act (2011) and Renewable Energy Master Plan (2019). These policy documents communicate targets such as 10% new renewable energy in Ghana electricity supply mix by 2030 and off grid renewable energy to 1,000 rural communities by 2030. There is however little visible action on the ground towards achievement of these targets. This study employs the multi-level perspective on sustainability transition to explore which stage of sustainability transition Ghana’s electrical energy is, and what barriers militate against sustainable electrical energy transition in Ghana. Sector reports, media publications and information on the websites of sector institutions were reviewed. Qualitative key informant interviews were held with Ghana’s Ministry of Energy, Energy Commission, Volta River Authority (State electricity producer), Electricity Company of Ghana (State electricity distributor), USAID (Sector development partner) and the Institute for Energy Security (Sector CSO).  The preliminary findings indicate that solar and wind are the main forms of renewable electrical energy being explored in Ghana. The more popular solar electrical energy can be said to be at the stage of ‘Stabilization’; while wind electrical energy is still at the stage of ‘Experimentation’. The barriers to sustainable electrical energy transition identified include: a present excess electricity generation capacity (4,593 MW production as against a 2019 peak demand of 2,665.68 MW) as a result of which a ban has been placed on the signing of new supply agreements with private producers; intermittency of renewable electrical energy (both solar and wind) as a result of which it is perceived to be inadequate to be a dominant energy source for Ghana; inadequate commitment to the Renewable Energy Master Plan (2019) as a result of which the scheduled monitoring and reporting on its implementation has not been done; and transmission challenges that present an obstacle to the citing of large scale renewable energy projects. A preliminary conclusion is that though the sociotechnical landscape is generally favourable for renewable electrical energy in Ghana, lock-in mechanisms associated with the current electrical energy regime (of thermal and large scale hydro) and technical challenges associated with the niche energy innovations (solar and wind) make the niche energy innovations presently a very little threat to the current electrical energy regime.

Paul Osei-Tutu is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. His field of teaching and research is environmental governance, with focus on resource management decentralization and institutions. He has a special interest in the topic of energy transition and how it plays out in the global south.