An interview with Kofi Ady Agyarko, Director of Energy Efficiency and Climate Change at the Energy Commission in Ghana
Kofi Ady Agyarko is the Director of Energy Efficiency and Climate Change at the Energy Commission in Ghana. In the last 16 years working in the energy sector, he has designed and implemented a number of energy efficiency projects and contributed to the 2007 mass Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) exchange programme as well as the installation of capacitor banks in public buildings. Mr Agyarko also served as a member of the UNEP-GEF lighting and refrigerating task force put together in 2015 to develop policy guidelines for accelerating the global adoption of quality, energy-efficient lighting and refrigerating appliances. We talked with Mr Agyarko about Ghana’s willingness to fully take part in the energy transition and the hope that renewable energy represents for the country and its people.
What would you say are the main challenges that Ghana faces in achieving sustainable energy for all?
Certain factors, such as the high upfront cost of most renewable energy technologies, play against the achievement of sustainable energy for all. We have limited resources to expand and improve the energy infrastructure to accommodate the increasing energy demand and financial institutions don’t provide the needed financing to support the deployment and scaling up of renewable energy.
Another challenge here is the poor energy efficiency in industry, buildings, homes and transportation, as we are struggling to achieve full compliance of energy efficiency standards and regulations.
The low penetration of clean fuels and improved stoves in urban and rural areas is another problem we experience in Ghana. We can link that with the unfortunately limited involvement of women, youth and the vulnerable in the planning, management and delivery of energy services.
Yet, Ghana is rich with renewable energy resources particularly biomass, solar and wind energy resources. How can the development of renewable energy contribute to ensuring Ghana’s energy security?
The electricity access rate in Ghana is 85%. The communities who do not have access to clean electricity are the ones living in remote areas and islands. Today, these communities can be reached with renewable energy technologies. Diversification of energy supply sources is, therefore, an effective way of enhancing energy security and the surest means of attaining the nationally set target of 10% of existing renewable energy capacity in the energy supply mix by 2030.
Developing renewable energy will help us to enhance our energy independence, as we will not fully depend on foreign sources to meet our energy requirements anymore. The production of biofuels, for instance, will help reduce our dependence on some imported petroleum products whose prices fluctuate.
When renewable energy systems are located close to the sources of energy and close to the end-users, as in the case of distributed generation, the power produced is not evacuated through the national grid. This makes decentralised renewable energy systems more resilient to extreme weather conditions that can cause supply disruptions and enhance energy supply security.
“Through the promotion of energy efficiency and energy savings, we have managed to reduce energy consumption, which prevented us from having to build additional electrical infrastructure.”
The annual growth in the demand for firewood and charcoal in Ghana is estimated at 3% per annum. Electricity demand, on the other hand, is growing between 6% and 7% annually while the consumption of petroleum products is estimated to increase at about 5% per annum. Could you explain the importance of working towards better energy efficiency in order to help mitigate these high growth rates?
Energy efficiency is very important in ensuring that demand grows at a reducing rate. We can decrease biomass, electricity and petroleum consumption by improving the devices, respectively cookstoves, household appliances and vehicles. Ghana has a robust standards and labels regime in place which has contributed to reducing the energy intensity of the country. Standards have been developed for cookstoves and work is in progress to introduce a framework to encourage the use of electric cars as well as to switch from diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG).
Promoting the use of efficient cookstoves, electrical appliances and transportation will ensure the efficient use of woodfuels, electricity and petroleum products and thereby reduce their high levels of consumption. A typical example is the massive CFL exchange program in 2007 and the 2013 refrigerator discount system that yielded annual energy savings of 124 MW and 400 GWh respectively.
Thanks to its efforts in energy efficiency, Ghana has managed to dissociate economic growth from energy demand, which is rare in developing countries. Through the promotion of energy efficiency and energy savings, we have managed to reduce energy consumption, which prevented us from having to build additional electrical infrastructure.
Climate change affects the most vulnerable people first. How is Ghana working towards building effective adaptive capacities of vulnerable groups, individuals, institutions and resilient energy infrastructure in that matter?
Here are some ways Ghana is strengthening the adaptive capacity of vulnerable groups in the face of climate change:
– Training and capacity building in climate change adaptation
– Providing alternative livelihoods and energy for vulnerable groups
– Promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency
– Promoting green building design and construction
– Creating and enhancing green belts around power generation reservoirs
– Incorporating climate risks into the design and safety standards for power equipment and infrastructure to improve resilience
You have played an important role in Ghana in the deployment of prepayment metering system for both electricity and water in Ghana. What have been the main impacts of this measure?
Prepayment metering system has contributed to reducing the commercial losses in the areas where they have been installed and made consumers of electricity very conscious of their power consumption and improved their energy use efficiencies.
Unlike the credit meter, the prepayment meter makes it possible for the utilities to receive payments before the power is consumed. Prepayment meters have therefore reduced the operational cost of the utility as they don’t have to spend resources chasing consumers for non-payment of bills.
The water prepaid meters could not be sustained because of technical reasons. The strainers in the meters could not accommodate the impurity levels of the water which caused a frequent breakdown of the meters. It was abandoned subsequently.
Could you please explain how the Energy Commission is working to tackle the difficult problems of changing consumption patterns?
In Ghana, our energy efficiency and conservation system are based on three main pillars: education and public awareness, Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), regulation and dissemination of energy-efficient technologies.
In the area of education and public awareness, the Energy Commission is using jingles, training, radio interviews, drama, documentaries, leaflets, brochures and stickers. Energy efficiency training and public education have been held for various consumer groups including hotels, schools, military officers, appliance retail shop assistants, government ministries, departments and agencies. The main purpose of public education and public awareness is to influence consumer energy use behaviour and improve their energy use efficiency.
As part of the MEPS and regulatory compliance strategy, the Energy Commission has gone further by creating a web-based database with a related application (APP) for refrigeration, air conditioners and lighting devices. The app is available on Google Play Store for download and allows consumers to check whether these appliances meet the minimum energy efficiency standards set by the Commission prior to purchase. The app also gives advice on the energy efficiency and conservation of these devices and helps users to find the closest sales and distribution points for these devices via Google map or give them a phone contact.
When it comes to the energy transition in Ghana, what makes you optimistic and why?
Ghana’s achievements in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency are the main sources of optimism. There is the diversification of energy sources first, and the goal of increasing the contribution of renewable energy by 10% in the overall energy production mix by 2030 (we’re currently at about 1%).
A 2011 Renewable Energy Act (Law 832) has been adopted to enable the development, management and use of renewable energy sources for the production of heat and energy in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way. The law also encourages the participation of the private sector in the renewable energy sector, promotes the development of renewable energies and creates a favourable environment to attract investment in the sector.
A Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) has also been developed to provide an investment-based framework for the promotion and development of the country’s renewable energy resources for sustainable economic growth and aim to reduce the harmful effects of climate change.
Following an aggressive energy efficiency campaign, Ghana’s energy intensity has been reduced and private sector participation in the renewable energy sector is increasing. Ghana now has two large-scale solar PV plants with a total capacity of about 40 MW and mini-grid systems are provided to off-grid and island communities to improve access to energy in disadvantaged areas.
These are some of the reasons why I’m hopeful today.