Lighting-up isolated communities in Ghana with mini-grids
At a ceremony at Atigagome in the Sene East District in Ghana, the Ministry of Energy has officially handed over five pilot mini-grid systems to the energy utility Volta River Authority (VRA) on 29th June, 2018 in pursuit of bringing electricity to the remaining remote communities in Ghana, particularly the isolated lakeside and island communities along the Volta Lake.
Two SNV staff on the Voice for Change Partnership programme, Dramani Bukari and Consolata S. Dassah joined the team from the Ministry of Energy and VRA at the ceremony. The V4CP group attended the ceremony to liaise with the communities and government representatives, and to learn about the state and impacts of the pilot mini-grids. This will impact the work of V4CP, as under the programme, SNV and CEESD (CSO, Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development) are advocating to speed up mini-grid development for remote (island) communities, by ensuring the right policies are in place, by increasing collaboration with local communities and private sector, and by ensuring government and development partners prioritise mini- grid programs and investments.
The remoteness of the communities speaks from the journey from Accra to the Krachi West East, which took 8 hours by road and 1 hour by boat crossing to Atigagome - and a walking journey of 30 minutes from Atigagome to Wayokope.
About 17% of Ghana’s population, or 5 million people, do not have access to electricity, with 2.9 million of them residing in lakeside and island communities created by the Akosombo Dam in the Volta river, which was built in 1965. While the benefits of electricity to these communities are huge (for example for access to cold drinking water, listening to the radio, charging phones or watching television), targeting these communities with conventional grid extensions is practically impossible seeing the costs of such investments.
The World Bank therefore funded the construction of the five pilot mini-grids under the Ghana Energy Development and Access Project (GEDAP). These solar projects have a total of about 200kW and are expected to provide 24-hour electricity to about 3,500 residents of the 5 island communities of Kudorkope, Aglakope, Atigagome, Wayokope and Pediatorkope in the Sene East, Krachi West, Krachi East and Ada districts.
The chief of the Islands, Nenewayo, thanked the dignitaries at the ceremony and prayed for additional solar projects for six other communities in the Krachi area. It was a moment of joy and excitement for the people of Atigagome and Wayokope, with many sharing the experience of having access to electricity after decades of waiting. Madam Sara Nartey, a trader in the Atigagome community, narrates how access to electricity has enabled her set up cold storage where she freezes fish caught by local fishermen as well as sell chilled soft drinks for community residents. This has provided her with increased income and she is now able to better provide for her children.
Following the formal handover ceremony, VRA is now responsible to operate, manage and maintain the mini-grid systems. The GEDAP Project Coordinator, Ing. Tonto Andrew Baffour justified the transfer by explaining that the VRA has the capacity and resilience to ensure sustainability, with experience in the management and maintenance of similar solar projects, such as the 2.5MW Novrongo Solar project in the Upper East Region.
The representative of the Chief Director of the Ministry of Energy, Mr. Seth Osei Agyen mentioned that given the positive impact of the pilot project, the government of Ghana intends to expand off-grid electricity services to 55 more communities under the Scale up of Renewable Energy Programme. He also explained that the Government has secured grant funding from the Swiss government (through SECO) to install three additional mini-grid systems in Aflive, Alokpem and Azizakpe island communities, all in the Ada East District.