Ghana – The Ghana electricity shortage has led to a 33% reduction in electricity supply to mining and industrial customers since January this year.

This is partly owing to an increase in electricity demand and a lack of generating capacity, compounded by falling water levels to power up Ghana’s hydroelectric dam, which accounts for 63% of the country’s energy mix, as well as the shortfall of natural gas in the country.

This power deficit, and resultant power rationing, being implemented on the basis of a load shedding schedule, is impacting severely on the mining companies operating in the country – who have had to virtually shut down their operations every three days.

Putting this electricity shortage into perspective, Gold miner Newmont Ghana’s regional risk management and power manager director Samuel De Souza explains that about 600 MW of Ghana’s 3 000 MW installed electricity capacity is being shed more often than not.

In his keynote address on Day 2 of the Renewables and Mining Summit, held in Johannesburg on Thursday, De Sousa said that Ghana, much like its sub-Saharan counterparts, is not yet able to meet the electricity needs of its citizens.

Mining companies in Ghana, including Newmont Ghana, are therefore actively exploring solutions for securing power supplies for their operations, he says.

Also committed to finding a power solution for the country as a whole, is Ghana’s government, which has realised that the electricity shortfall has led to less revenue coming to power generating companies and mining companies as well as less income to government as a result of less taxes and royalties being paid by the mining companies.

Ghana President John Mahama has been quoted as saying the government understands that the energy challenge must be overcome “as quickly as possible” and Ghana’s Minister of Power, Kwabena Donkor, who says that he would resign if he can’t fix the electricity cuts by January next year.

Shedding light on alternative solutions to the power crisis and the potential role of renewables in Ghana, De Sousa says that mining companies are forced to spend lots of money to obtain alternative power solutions in the form of diesel generators, which are often costly unbudgeted expenses.

To overcome the electricity shortage, mining companies have responded by undertaking inter-company generation collaboration programmes as well as modifying their operations to reduce power consumption.

De Sousa advises other mining companies operating in the country to increase their presence on national discussions on power, including the power rationing board, “as engaging with government is imperative in helping bring about change.”

In terms of opportunities for renewable in Ghana’s thermal and hydropower dominated energy mix, De Sousa highlights the need for the renewable energy sector to “speak the same language” as mining companies by providing solutions that are clearly understood by mining companies and that are easily integrated into mining companies’ existing power supply chain.

Further, he advises government and regulators to encourage mining companies’ participation in renewables by providing incentives and simultaneously encourages Investors and shareholders to sponsor mutually beneficial renewable projects.

Mining companies must also get educated on renewables and consider this, at least for new long term project developments in Ghana, says De Sousa.

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