Wednesday, June 9, 2010
A Promise by the Energy Minister, BBC phone interview and live debate, and what Ghanaians say about Energy Alternatives.
The past two months have been eventful.
Tracy from PI in the US was sharing hopes on a consultancy going through for Energy-saving lighting. I oughta hope so too, since I may be working with the team on it if it goes through.
Emmanuel for SE in the US e-mailed again to ask whether government has at yet set a Feed-in tariff for Solar Energy - they are looking to hire consultancy for a market survey for a solar energy company to come in with large capacity. I don't know, but it seems their decision to do so hinges on the ability to sell the surplus energy produced to smaller companies and individuals, and therefore the need to know what the legal tariff for such a sale will be (Feed-in Tariff).
Unfortunately, only government can set this Feed-in Tariff, and only via a Renewable Energy Legislature ... why is this unfortunate? Our Renewable Energy Policy finally got drafted and finished about a year ago.
It's still lying somewhere, waiting to be used as washroom paper, or something as memorable. No effort has been put into passing it into law; not by Parliament, not by the Energy Minister and his Ministry, and not by any CSO or advocacy body ... wait! I think my NGO is the only Renewable Energy CSO for Ghana!
Yeah, nobody sees the fuss! But livelihoods depend on this billion-dollar industry.
We have abundant sunshine, areas of high and consistent wind speeds, abundant rainfall in some parts of the country, and MORE THAN ENOUGH waste to churn biogas and the other forms of bio-energy!!
More than enough work for Ghanaians, more than enough energy to develop the rural areas and give the migrants a reason to return back home and make a living with their own folks, more than enough energy to raise standards of living and boost our average income from $600 to $1500 or more!
...Only deterrant is we are too lazy to put our shoulders to the wheel, unless that wheel is Politics!
And so, BBC (Have Your Say) called me up to find out:
1. Whether I thought Ghanaians would now look at Renewable Energy as a wise alternative to electricity, now that there is a 42%+ increase in the tariffs?
2. What I thought had kept most Ghanaians away from going in for the green alternatives, even those who could afford it?
3. What Energy Solutions Foundadtion (my NGO) was doing to get more people into opting for Renewable Energy?
4. How my advocacy for Green Energy in Ghana (Ghana Goes Green) with the support of Reggie Rockstone (popular hip-life music icon) went, and why most of the youth did not show at the event?
5. If I felt Akosombo was now redundant, especially with more Ghanaians willing to look at alternatives (which does not necessarily mean they WILL go in for it!)
And a few other questions.
I will not bore you with my answers right now, but in my next blog post, I shall!!
Though, you can listen to the live session they held after this phone interview, where I was asked to be present, with David Ampofo, Israel Laryea, Dr. Maxwell Antwi, the Minister for Energy, the MDs for GridCo and ECG, and a cross-section of the general public.
The audio link for this can be found here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/africahaveyoursay/
on the right-hand column that says (Listen here : 54 mins).
It was a most lively, grilling debate, and the Energy Minister came under fire, but perhaps, some of you might be SLIGHTLY pleased to know that he promised that due to the urgency and pressure with which I advocated for a Renewable Energy policy IMMEDIATELY, as a way forward for all Ghanaians ... he would ENSURE THAT the R.E. POLICY WAS PASSED INTO LAW BEFORE THIS YEAR ENDED.
Please, all of you help me to monitor this promise!
Several others at the live session also insisted that this be done to enable multi-national interests and private sector participation to come in and start vamping up this sector of the economy.
What almost all the people I ask opinions of, are demanding of RE in Ghana these:
1. Bring in more service providers and after-sales service assurances, because we want fair prices, not monopolized ones; and we want to know that after we invest in these alternatives, there will be numerous licensed and reliable set-ups to service, maintain, and repair, should the need arise! Otherwise, we have absolutely no confidence in going in for these alternatives now, or ever, no matter how dire the electricity or fuel situation is!
2. We want MORE, much more education on what these RE alternatives involve. We want to have data, so we know their technicalities, their capacities, their advantages and disadvantages, the entire information, so we can weigh all this against our needs and make the best choice OURSELVES, before going to the service provider for that final decision.
As at now, government has absolutely NO mass education going on for us to be aware of anything.
1 in 5 Ghanaians do not know what RE is, until you break it up into Solar, Wind, Bio, etc.
3 in 5 are only aware of solar, until you remind them of wind, and after that, they have no idea what bio-energy is or involves.
We drown in ignorance, and die of poverty, yet we sit on 'gold' of such vast, endless reserves, that it hurts to watch us struggle.
WHAT?! Ignorance paaa nie? (trans: What heights of ignorance!) I shake my head indefinitely ...
As I keep saying, in your bid to make a bright future for yourself and your loved ones (partner, children, parents), make sure THAT FUTURE WILL BE THERE, when you do get there! Save your future ...
I feel such a weight on my shoulders, knowing that I am well the only one doing anything like this in the entire country (my father keeps reminding me, "That is why BBC and other foreign countries are interested in contacting you all the time ... cus you are the human, non-business, side of this new phenomenon in this sub-region) ... but where do I start? Who do I do it with? How do I change the landscape for the better?
One day at a time ... one advocacy at a time.