Ghana's challenges: access to electricity and renewables

Ghana's challenges: access to electricity and renewables

Simona Manna
Talking with Boakye Agyarko, Minister of Energy: "The National Electrification Scheme and the Self Help Electrification Programme will provide access to energy for all". By 2020, alternative energy sources will make up 20 percent of the energy mix

In Ghana, some 84 percent of the population enjoys access to electricity. This is an impressive achievement considering that in mid-2017, according to data from the World Economic Forum, 62.5 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa had no access to electricity. Ghana is also working on green energy, and aims to attain an energy mix in which renewable energy sources will account for 20 percent of the total by 2020. But that’s not all. At the beginning of the year, Ghana’s Minister for Energy announced that the country plans to create an oil hub in the downstream sector in 2018, turning Ghana into a major stakeholder for the economy, promoting direct foreign investments in the country.
Ghana’s Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko, who sees a positive future for the whole of Africa, gives us the figures and tells us about the challenges facing the country. What is needed, he says, is "a sensible policy and the determined political will to get it done and I think that is what we have."

Africa in general is a continent rich in energy resources, but with limited access to energy. So what are the greatest challenges facing your country?

Well, you see, the thing is to have the resource and translating the availability to use, is a question of economics and physical infrastructure. In Ghana we are lucky to have 84 percent of our population with access to electricity. So we've done very-very well. Where we don't have access is basically very remote areas where the economics doesn't make sense. What people don't realize is that in Ghana we have 88,917 human locations. 74% of those locations have populations of less than 100, scattered. So how do you drop a line on a 161 kV to a 33 kV and supply power to a hamlet of ten people? Those are the difficult ones we are facing and we are looking at off-grid solutions. But at the end of the day the translation is not automatic, we have to make a conscious effort to make sure that people get access to power. In Ghana we've had the National Electrification Scheme which is a broader umbrella that takes into account the rural population. So we have what is called SHEP Self Help Electrification Program for the rural areas. So we make sure that under these programs, our people get access to electricity.

What is Ghana doing to improve its energy mix?

We started off largely as a hydro country. Currently the thermal mix has overtaken hydro, simply because we have fixed hydro capabilities. We have to make sure that, one, the thermals are efficient and, secondly, we have to bring in a lot of renewable. So currently where we are is about 38 40% hydro, 60% - roughly 60% thermal, but our penetration of renewables is very low under 1% and we intend to get to 20... 10% by 2020.

How do you see Africa evolving over the next 30 years in the energy sector?

It is our hopeful expectation that we will create a prosperous and contented Africa. It does not happen by accident, it happens through sensible policy and the determined political will to get it done and I think that is what we have.


Boakye Agyarko is a Ghanaian economist and politician. He was a vice president of the Bank of New York. He is the current Minister for Energy in Ghana. As the Energy Minister, Agyarko has supervisory responsibility for fifteen major agencies under the ministry.