As Ghana marks its independence day, it’s a time to reflect on the country’s journey towards energy self-sufficiency. For many years, Ghana has been heavily reliant on traditional energy sources, such as fossil fuels and biomass, to meet its energy needs. However, the country is now seeking to shift its energy mix towards renewable sources in order to reduce its carbon footprint, promote sustainable development, and improve energy security.
Over the past decade, Ghana’s government has set ambitious targets for renewable energy production, with the aim of achieving 10% of biofuel blends by 2020 and 20% blends of both gasoline and biodiesel by 2030. The country is endowed with abundant solar, wind, hydro, and biomass resources, making it a prime location for the development of renewable energy infrastructure. By harnessing these resources, Ghana can move towards a more sustainable energy system that is better equipped to meet its growing energy demands.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the various sources of renewable energy in Ghana, exploring their potential and the challenges they face. By examining Ghana’s renewable energy landscape, we can gain a better understanding of the country’s energy needs and its efforts to build a more sustainable and self-sufficient energy system.
Biofuels have the potential to provide a sustainable source of energy for Ghana, reducing the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and contributing to the national goal of energy self-sufficiency. The Jatropha plant, a non-edible oilseed crop that can be grown on marginal lands, has been identified as a promising source of biodiesel in Ghana. Farmers are increasingly cultivating Jatropha instead of traditional crops like cassava and maize, attracted by its potential for producing a profitable cash crop.
However, the development of biofuels in Ghana has faced several challenges. Initially, the results were not encouraging due to the impact on food security and the negative effect on farmers’ incomes. In addition, the lack of institutional support, regulatory barriers, and market competition has hindered the growth of the biofuel industry in the country. To address these challenges, the Ghanaian government has implemented policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the use of renewable energy sources.
One such policy is the Ghana Bioenergy Policy, which aims to increase the production and use of biofuels in the country. The policy targets blended fuel with biofuel of 10% (E10, B10) by 2020 and 20% of both gasoline (E20) and biodiesel (B20) by 2030. The policy also seeks to remove institutional barriers, develop a competitive market and regulatory support, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If successful, these efforts could make Ghana a net exporter of biofuels in the medium-to-long term, contributing to the country’s economic growth and energy security.
Biomass has been a vital source of energy in Ghana for many decades. It encompasses a broad range of materials, including wood, charcoal, agricultural waste, waste-to-energy, and burnt kernel shells from palm used for heating and cooking. In fact, almost 40% of households in Ghana still use wood for cooking, while 33.7% rely on charcoal as a primary source of energy. However, in recent years, the country has made efforts to transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources, such as liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and biogas.
Despite the decline in biomass consumption from 54% in 2005 to 43% in 2010, it still remains a significant source of energy for many Ghanaians. In some parts of the country, particularly in the middle and northern regions, charcoal production is a vital source of income for farmers and communities. However, this traditional source of energy is not without its drawbacks, as it can contribute to deforestation and indoor air pollution, which can have negative impacts on human health.
Fortunately, the government of Ghana recognizes the importance of transitioning to cleaner energy sources and has implemented several initiatives to promote the adoption of LPG and biogas. The use of LPG, for example, has been steadily increasing in urban areas, where it is being promoted as a cleaner and safer alternative to traditional biomass fuels. Additionally, biogas technology is being adopted in some parts of the country, with the government providing incentives to encourage farmers to invest in small-scale biogas plants.
Despite these efforts, there is still much work to be done in promoting sustainable energy sources in Ghana. The country has vast potential in using organic waste material to produce charcoal sustainably in large quantities. The Ghana Oil Development Company has already installed a 2.5 MW power generation capacity which uses part of their waste as feedstock for their factory to power their operations. With the right incentives and investment, Ghana could further develop its biomass energy sector and transition to more sustainable energy sources, while supporting the livelihoods of rural communities.
3. Waste-to-Energy and Biogas
Waste-to-energy and biogas offer a promising solution to Ghana’s energy needs while also addressing its waste management challenges. With a rapidly growing population and urbanization, the amount of waste generated in Ghana is increasing at an alarming rate. The majority of the waste ends up in landfills, which pose environmental and health risks due to the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and the contamination of soil and water resources.
However, as mentioned earlier, the organic waste in streams and landfills in Ghana is a valuable resource that can be harnessed for energy production. Biogas, which is produced through anaerobic digestion of organic waste, can be used as a fuel for electricity generation, cooking, and heating. In addition to providing a renewable source of energy, biogas production also offers several environmental benefits, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving waste management.
The Safi Sana project, which is a public-private partnership between the Dutch government, the Ghanaian government, and private companies, is an excellent example of waste-to-energy and biogas production in Ghana. The project involves the construction of a waste treatment plant that utilizes anaerobic digestion technology to convert organic waste into biogas. The plant also recovers materials such as plastics, glass, and metals for recycling and generates compost from the digested organic waste. The biogas produced is used to power generators that supply electricity to the plant and the surrounding community.
Wind energy is a promising source of renewable energy in Ghana, and the country has been making strides in developing its potential. The Energy Commission of Ghana has conducted research that depicts sufficient capacity to generate energy from wind. According to available data from the Ministry of Energy, the yearly wind speed in Ghana is at a point beyond the height of 50m, and the best resources of wind are found within the narrow stretch of the eastern coastline of Ghana and within the hilltops in Volta Lake and the border to Togo.
Currently, almost five companies have established farms for wind energy generation in Ghana. Among them is Upwind Akplabnya Ltd., which established a 225 MW wind farm located at Nigo Prampram within the Greater Accra Region. The wind farm was completed by the end of 2016 and was funded by Lekela and Actors. Additionally, the Volta River Authority (VRA) developed 100–150 MW of wind power generating plants in the southern part of Ghana.
Furthermore, there is a partnership between NEK, a company from Sweden, and Accra-based Atlantic International Holding Co., Ghana, to develop a 50 MW project. The project is expected to be a significant boost to Ghana’s renewable energy portfolio, contributing to the country’s target of 10% blended fuel with biofuel (E10, B10) by 2020 and 20% of both gasoline (E20) and biodiesel (B20) by 2030.
While wind energy is still a relatively new and emerging sector in Ghana’s renewable energy landscape, the country’s potential for wind power generation is promising. As the government continues to promote the development of renewable energy sources and increase their use, wind energy is poised to play a crucial role in Ghana’s energy mix in the coming years.
Solar Energy is another promising renewable energy source in Ghana. The country has an abundance of solar resources, with an average solar radiation of 4.4 to 5.6 kWh/m2/day, and an annual duration of sunshine ranging between 1,800 and 3,000 hours. However, until recently, little has been done to exploit this resource. The solar market has not been tapped, both for photovoltaic (PV) systems and solar water heaters.
Fortunately, the government of Ghana has started taking steps to utilize solar energy. For example, the government has started lighting the streets using solar energy. In addition, in Onyadze in Gomoa East, a solar PV farm of 20 MW was established to provide power services to the communities in these areas. Several companies with licenses have expressed interest in establishing solar farms in Ghana. The Volta River Authority (VRA) has also established a 2 MW small solar PV grid-connected plant in the Upper East Region.
If Ghana can harness its solar energy potential, it could become a major source of renewable energy for the country. Solar energy could also provide power to communities that currently lack access to electricity, which would help to improve their standard of living. Additionally, the use of solar energy could help to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, which would have significant environmental benefits.
In addition, based on information from Ghana Sustainable Energy for All Action Plan, there are almost 22 sites which can be exploited for minihydro in Ghana. The capacities of these sites are approximated to be from 5.6 MW to 24.5 MW. There are 17 sites within the Black Volta, White Volta, Oti River, Pra River, and Ankobra Rivers where there are hydroelectric plants of more than 10 MW each. Akosombo, Kpong, and Bui dams are the only plants generating electricity to the national grid. However, the major challenge that restrains the development of this energy source is the lack of important data to choose a viable site. To address this challenge, the government initiated partnership programmes with donors such as the Swiss Government, which funds a Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Project (HSAP), six hydropower sites on the Black and White Volta Rivers. This initiative can solve this challenge and generate up to 362 MW of capacity.
Although the potential for hydropower is significant, there have been concerns over the environmental impact of large-scale hydropower projects. Critics argue that such projects can displace communities and disrupt ecosystems. To address these concerns, the government has emphasized the importance of sustainability and environmental protection in the development of hydropower projects. In addition, there have been efforts to involve local communities in the planning and decision-making process.
Overall, Ghana’s diverse sources of renewable energy provide significant potential for the country to become more energy self-sufficient and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. While challenges remain in terms of infrastructure, financing, and policy implementation, the government’s commitment to renewable energy development and ambitious targets for increasing the use of renewable energy are promising signs for the country’s future.
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