An estimated five million people or 17 percent of Ghana’s total population are without electricity, a report by the World Bank said here on Tuesday.

Out of the number, some 2.9 million live in lakeside and island communities on the Volta Lake created in 1965 for the production of hydro-electricity for industrialization.

Under a World Bank-funded Ghana Energy Development and Access Project (GEDAP), five pilot projects were commissioned in 2016 and have been operating in four island communities for a year with mini-grids serving about 417 households comprising 10,000 people.

The mini-grids are hybrid systems of solar with battery back-up and a diesel generator capable of generating about 1.5 megawatts.

At the national level, Ghana is keen to meet the objectives of Sustainable Energy for All by 2030, and has now expanded electricity to 83 percent of its population of 28.2 million.

A joint team from the World Bank and Ghana’s Ministry of Energy which toured some of the communities discovered that they had both adapted to electricity and were exploring ways of using it to boost local economic activity.

The team traveled eight hours by road from Accra to Kete-Krachi on the edge of Volta Lake, some 419. 5 km northeast of the capital, and two-and-a-half hours on a ferry crossing to Aglakope island.

These power systems have improved the quality of life at the local school, and teachers are now willing to relocate to the island. Additionally, children are finishing their homework in the evenings and their performance is improving, according to one teacher, the team discovered.

“When a mini-grid project came to Atigagome, a remote island in the middle of Ghana’s Lake Volta, the kerosene lamps people were using became decorative pieces that were hung on the walls—a reminder that the island’s days of darkness were over,” observed the team.

The village not only gave up kerosene lamps and candles but also attracted people like Seth Hormuku, who migrated to the island once a stable electricity supply was being provided to the local community.

“There is no ‘dumsor’ (power cuts) in this village, and so we are better off than the city people. And the only time someone loses power is when they don’t put enough credit into it,” he said.

For Agatha Abotchie, a seamstress at Aglakope, the mini-grid has offered her the opportunity to work during evening hours. Prior to the project, she sewed without light but now she can sew at night and use an electric iron that makes her work neater and more presentable for her customers.

Agatha intends to buy a motor to turn her manual sewing machine into an electric one, speeding up the pace of her business.

The World Bank observed that these island and lakeside communities are difficult and uneconomical to connect to the national grid, and are now seen as a major hurdle in Ghana’s goal of reaching 90 percent of its total population by 2020.

Due to the demand and visible results, coupled with the interest shown by other communities, there is a decision to expand three out of four sites to accommodate new customers.

“But, as an economic sector, the mini-grid lacks regulatory clarity and policy, as the pilot projects rely on intermittent funding, mostly sourced from development partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a fully public business model will require explicit subsidies to scale up with private sector participation, as seen in Kenya,” the World Bank asserted.

Given the positive impact of this pilot project, the World Bank seeks to dialogue with the Government of Ghana to facilitate the mini-grid upscale, for there are still up to 200 more island communities without electricity. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh