Generally, electricity goes through a three-step process before arriving at the end user for consumption. First, power is produced from generators that are usually located far from the load centres. Second, the power is transported over the transmission grid, which is composed of transmission lines, transformers, and other components, to the bulk load distribution substations. Third, from bulk load distribution substations, power is delivered to the individual customer sites using distribution lines.
The generation market is made up of two main players, namely the government (through the VRA and Bui Hydroelectric Company) and the IPPs. The VRA operates a total installed electricity generation capacity of 2,434MW. This is made up of two hydroelectric plants on the Volta River, with installed capacities of 1,020MW and 160MW at Akosombo and Kpong. The VRA also operates a 330MW Combined Cycle Thermal Plant at Aboadze, near Takoradi.
VRA, through its joint venture company, Takoradi International Company (TICO), jointly owned with TAQA, from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, operates the 330MW combined cycle thermal plant at Takoradi. An additional development 132MW (T3) Magellan plant was commissioned at Aboadze in 2012.
The VRA also operates three major plants in Tema. The 110MW Tema Thermal 1 Power Plant, the 80MW Mines Reserve Plant, and the 220MW Thermal Plant located at Kpone, near Tema. The VRA is also planning additional development of 100-150MW of wind power at locations in the southern part of Ghana and up to 12MW of solar power generation in the northern part of Ghana. The VRA has begun the installation of a 2MW solar plant.
There are a number of IPPs operating in the generation space in Ghana, with a total installed generation capacity of 1,210MW. Some of these IPPs are Sunon-Asogli, Cenit Power Plant, Karpower Barge, Ameri Energy Power, Early Power, Amandi, among others. In the renewable energy sector, Africa Plantations for Sustainable Development is currently developing a eucalyptus plantation to power a proposed 60MW power plant for the national grid. Other companies providing renewable energy in Ghana include, Soater Solar Ghana Limited, Orion Energy Ghana Limited, Signik Energy Limited, among others.
After generation, electricity is transmitted. In 2006, GRIDCo was created out of VRA and was tasked with the wholesale power transmission. Currently, GRIDCo is the only company responsible for transmission of electricity in Ghana. There are no private players in the transmission sub-sector. GRIDCo operates the NITS and all power producing companies that intend to supply electricity over the national grid to the various load centres are required to enter into a connection agreement with GRIDCo in order to connect to the NITS.
Ghana has an extensive transmission system that covers all the regions of the country. The transmission system is an interconnected network that supports the bulk transfer of electricity over long distances from generation facilities to distribution centres called bulk power distribution substations. While generation’s role is to make sure that electricity is available when customers demand it, transmission’s role is to make sure electricity is available where customers need it.
This high-voltage transmission network connects generation sites in Akosombo, Aboadze, Takoradi, Kpong and Tema to the various load centres around the country. The network features over 4,000km of high-voltage electric transmission lines that connect to more than 40 substations.
The primary backbone of Ghana’s transmission system is a network of 161kV, 69kV and 225kV lines and substations. This primary network is supplemented with a sub-transmission system of 34.5kV lines and a single 69kV line in the lower Volta region - the 34.5kV network is sometimes classified as distribution. The ongoing implementation of 330kV projects will see 330kV replacing 161kV as the primary transmission voltage. Under the Transmission System Rehabilitation Project which began in 2017, GRIDCo continued to improve operational reliability, security and control of transmission via various transmission system improvement projects. GRIDCo completed the Tumu-Han-Wa 161kV line and commenced the Kpandu-Kadjebi 161kV line project and the Aboadze-Prestea 330kV in 2017. In 2018, the government aims to complete the Aboadze-Prestea 330kV and Prestea-Kumasi 330kV transmission lines (each 70 per cent complete) and continue working on the Kumasi-Bolgatanga 330kV transmission line (about 50 per cent complete).
Ghana’s high-voltage transmission system interconnects with Togo and Benin via a double circuit 161kV transmission line connecting the Akosombo Generating Plant in Ghana to Lome in Togo, and with the Ivory Coast via a single circuit 225kV 220km transmission line between Prestea substation in the Western Region of Ghana and Abobo substation. A small network of low-voltage lines connects Ghana to the border towns of Po and Leo in Burkina Faso and Dapaong in Togo.
These cross-border interconnections allow Ghana to trade power with its neighbouring countries. Regional efforts have been under way to integrate the transmission networks of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states to facilitate power trading among the regional entities. In this regard, the West African Power Pool (WAPP) has begun efforts to build regional transmission lines to interconnect major load centres.
The distribution system is a network of low-voltage distribution lines that deliver electricity directly to customers. The distribution system is generally considered to begin at the bulk power distribution substation where GRIDCo delivers power to the wholesale power buyers and end at the retail consumer’s meter. Beyond the meter lies the customer’s electric system, which consists of wires, equipment and appliances.
Electricity distribution and sale services are currently conducted by three companies: ECG; NEDCo, a wholly owned subsidiary of VRA; and Enclave Power Company Limited.
Substations on the transmission system receive power at higher voltages and lower them to lesser volts to feed the distribution systems. The distribution system consists of the poles and wires commonly seen in neighbourhoods. At key locations, voltage is again lowered by transformers to meet customer needs.
ECG operates in the southern part of Ghana comprising the Ashanti, Western, Eastern, Central, Western and Volta regions. The ECG network consists of about 77,000km of service lines, connecting 24 bulk supply points (BSPs).
ECG has more transformer capacity than the present peak demand but growth in demand in certain areas has resulted in under-capacity in those areas.
ECG serves about two million customers including residential, commercial and some large industries. These include nine bulk customers within the ECG network infrastructure. These bulk customers, even though they are embedded in the ECG system have a choice to opt to buy power from VRA or any other wholesale supplier except that they are required to pay for the use of the ECG system to reach their facilities.
NEDCo’s operations cover largely the northern part of Ghana comprising the Brong-Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions. NEDCo’s distribution network consists of 5,488km of medium-voltage lines and 7,832km of low-voltage (415V) lines connecting 24 BSPs. The NEDCo system has transformer installed capacity of 200MVA compared with its average peak load of 130MVA.
NEDCo operates at 34.5kV, 11kV and 400V voltage levels. NEDCo serves over 350,000 customers including residential, commercial and some large industries.
NEDCo has no bulk customers under its jurisdiction primarily because of the absence of large industrial customers in their areas of operation. The northern part of the country is comparatively underdeveloped.
Enclave Power Company Ltd is the only privately owned electricity distribution company, licensed by the Energy Commission in 2009 to distribute and sell electricity within the Free Zones Enclave at Tema Industrial Area. Enclave Power Company’s network consists of nearly 3km of service lines connecting one BSP at the New Tema substation.
Enclave Power Company Ltd currently serves 17 industrial and large commercial customers operating within the Tema Free Zones Enclave. The consumption of the customers within the Enclave Power Concession was estimated at about 17.8GWh with maximum demand well in excess of 32.0MVA in 2008.
The power market is evolving and there is a lot of interest being shown in the sector by IPPs. GRIDCo as the market operator is working towards putting systems and procedures in place to support market operations.
The new market structure enables and encourages the free entry of IPPs into the generation market, creating a competitive generation market which, when combined with open access to transmission, also facilitates a bulk power trading market. The structure also emphasises decentralisation at the distribution level, with plans for eventually adding more distributors, each operating in a defined geographic service area. To further enhance a competitive market, the current government in 2017 approved the restructuring of the VRA to include a wholly owned entity to manage the hydroelectric facilities separately and invited private sector participation in the ownership and management of state-funded thermal power plants.
All bulk customers are permitted to purchase electricity directly from any wholesale suppliers of their choice at prices negotiated directly between the parties. In other words, the bulk customer has the prerogative to decide which wholesale supplier it is willing to contract with.
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