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Blog | Ghana: assessing the sustainability of new hydropower sites

Ghana: assessing the sustainability of new hydropower sites

As the Government of Ghana aims to nearly double the country’s installed power capacity to 5,000 MW by 2016, hydroelectricity is expected to play an important role in new development. A number of potential sites have been identified for hydropower projects of a range of sizes, and in 2015 the country will become the first in Africa to use the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.

Volta River ferryGhana’s total installed capacity currently stands at 2,936 MW, just over half of which is provided by hydropower (1,580 MW). This contribution is accounted for by just three stations, all located in the Volta River basin: Akosombo (1,020 MW), Kpong (160 MW) and Bui (400 MW).

Development of smaller-scale hydroelectric projects in Ghana has until recently been challenging, due to the lack of a regulatory and legal framework for renewable energy, and scant economic incentives to attract investors.

In 2011, the Government of Ghana took steps to improve this situation with the introduction of the Renewable Energy Law Act 832, encouraging private sector investment in renewable energy. Furthermore, the National Energy Policy, introduced in 2010, aims to improve the fiscal and regulatory framework and incentivise development of small hydropower.

The vision for regional development across West Africa is also driving new activity in Ghana. The country is a member of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), which integrates the national power systems of the region into a unified regional electricity market. 

The government’s actions to encourage and accelerate hydropower development in Ghana are intended to meet the country’s growing electricity demand"

The WAPP masterplan outlined in 2011 places the development of new hydropower capacity at the heart of the region’s vision. It includes five potential projects in Ghana, which are undergoing feasibility studies led by the Volta River Authority (VRA), an IHA member, and the country’s ministry of energy and petroleum (MoEP): Juale (87 MW), Pwalugu (48 MW), Daboya (43 MW), Hemang (93 MW), and Kulpawn (36 MW).

The government’s actions to encourage and accelerate hydropower development in Ghana are intended to meet the country’s growing electricity demand, which rises 10 per cent every year. Ghana’s hydropower potential has been estimated at 2,480 MW (ECREEE, 2012).

In 2014, the International Hydropower Association (IHA) signed a funding agreement with the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland (SECO) to support the sustainable development of hydropower in less developed countries. The first step of this collaboration will focus on the potential sites for new projects in Ghana.

As part of the agreement, the early stage tool of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol – a tool for assessing hydropower projects against a comprehensive range of social, environmental, technical and economic considerations – will be applied to six potential project sites.

While the protocol has already been used to assess 17 hydropower projects worldwide, this will be the first time it has been applied in Africa. The protocol’s early stage tool, the key focus of the work, enables evaluation of potential sites from a sustainability perspective, identifying broader environmental and social issues along with the criteria more customarily used to guide decision-making, such as technical and economic parameters.

The IHA team made its first trip to the Volta River basin as part of the initiative in December 2014 to begin exploring the project sites, and returned again in January 2015 to facilitate training and capacity-building activities.

SECO has also committed to funding the strengthening of the protocol’s governance through a number of measures, including a web-hosted tool to facilitate better collaboration between the different stakeholder groups involved in its development, including governments, development and commercial banks, NGOs, and hydropower industry.

 

SECO is co-convening a special session on early stage sustainability at the 2015 World Hydropower Congress in Beijing – find out more here

You can find out more about the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol at www.hydrosustainability.org