WEEKS after torrential rains hit the northern parts of the country, the Akosombo Hydroelectric Generation Station has been declared to be in good condition and operating efficiently but the threat of another energy crisis in the near future still lingers on.
All the six units of the dam, that comprises a turbine, a generator and a transformer are in perfect condition and operating at an optimal level of efficiency, after the major rehabilitation works were completed in 2005.
In the heat of the recent energy crisis, the station had operated only two of the six generation units even at peak hours because of the low level of the water in the dam. However, when the Daily Graphic visited the Station last Friday, three of the units were running, and at 256.40 feet, five of the units are operated at peak hours.
Yet, despite the marked improvement in the water level in the dam, officials of the station are threading cautiously, conscious of the fact that no major rains are expected in the next nine months.
“We have told the government that we must produce between 3200 - 3600 Giga watts hours of electricity to ensure that the water level in the dam will be around 248 feet by the time of the major inflows in June next year,” Mr Kwesi B. Amoako, plant manager of the Hydro Generation Department of Akosombo told the Daily Graphic.
He stated further that if the dam was ran at higher levels to produce, for instance, 4800 Giga watts hours of electricity then the level of the dam would run dangerously low before the rainy season next year, and that could result in another energy crisis in 2009 if the rain patterns were poor in 2008 as they had been last year.
Mr Amoako explained that the dam operated under the principle of potential energy that is dependent on the water level, hence the higher the water level the more electricity that can be generated.
He said that called for an efficient and careful management policy to keep the water level appreciably high and prevent a recurrence of the energy crisis.
“Over the years we have drawn a lot from the dam, there is now therefore the need for a careful management policy,” Mr Amoako emphasised.
Before the energy crisis in August last year, hydro electric generation met about 60 to 65 per cent of the country’s energy needs, while 35 per cent came from the Aboadze Thermal Plant, with about five per cent coming from exports from Ivory Coast.
But now the Volta River Authority (VRA) is advocating a change in the country’s energy generation policy to guarantee the optimum operation of the Akosombo Generation Station and prevent a recurrence of the energy crisis.
Under the new proposal, hydro-electric energy will complement electricity supply from thermal plants and generators, which will be the main sources of supplies.
Mr Amoako pointed out that, hydro generation, although renewable, was highly variable, depending on the pattern of rainfall and hence was not always reliable considering the country’s growing energy demands.
This is at a time of record high prices of crude oil, that has skyrocketed to alsmost $100 per barrel, and calls by some in the petroleum industry for an increased dependence on the dam for the country’s energy needs to reduce the cost of running the thermal plants brought in during the crisis by the government.
Mr Amoako conceded that although increased dependence on thermal plants and generators could mean significant increases in tariffs, that seemed to be the best way out.
He also called for the adoption of prudent conservation methods to get the country through a lean season to the next rainy season.
Now, the dam and its envirions lie serenely and idyllically beautiful in its plush greenery.
Some fishermen are back fishing on the river that hitherto had been so low that the spew gates, from where excess water from the dam could be let out, were opened widely and no water flowed out as the level lay way beneath the gates then.
“What you now see in the dam is God-sent,” Mr Amoako said with a beam on his face.
“Did you visit the station during the crisis?, he enquires.
Responding in the negative he says, “Oh, then you would have appreciated the level of water in the dam now.”
Taking advantage of the low level of water in the dam, rehabilitation works were carried on the gates, Mr Amoako added.
“Our success perhaps has been out ondoing,” Mr Amoako points out.
He said Ghanaians must now think seriously about paying real rates for the electricity they consume as managing the Station and investing to keep all equipment in shape has not been done pro bono.
For him, it is unwise for Akosombo to produce electricity and be paid rates that do not even cover their cost of production.