Earlier this week, the environmental movement in Ghana was thrown into frenzy, following the announcement by the Volta River Authority (VRA) of its plans to construct a 150MW wind power plant to supplement power generation in the country. The project to be completed in two phases is said to be under the Renewable Development Programme of the organization, Ghana’s main electric power utility corporation.
The Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) and other campaigners and supporters of renewable energy took to social media minutes after the media announcement to celebrate the impending and inevitable victory of clean energy over dirty energy— demonstrating the underlining relevance rather than a superficial reveling, considering the Ghana government, just a couple of months ago was advancing plans to build a 2x350MW coal fired plant in the Ekumfi Aboano with coal imports from South Africa.
The fuss here is about the VRA’s sharp U-turn on the subject of coal and now wind power. Before campaigners from GYEM took on the idea of importing pollution from coal into the country with coordinated street campaigns in support of renewable energy, notably solar and wind power, the VRA’s position on dirty energy was unequivocal: the country needed to diversify it’s existing energy portfolio with a cheaper, proven and reliable technology to help optimize hydro resources and they believed coal power was the way to go.
In a statement announcing the 150MW wind power project, their position seemed to have been altered incredibly in just a few months in favor of renewables. The Principal Engineer for Renewable and Integrated Resource Development of the VRA, Mr. Ebenezer Antwi declaring that “technology in renewable energy had matured and the cost declined over the years, making it cheaper, therefore the need to consider wind and solar energy to ease pressure on hydro power generation”.
The most relevant point here is that the government acknowledges that the cost of renewable energy is tumbling incredibly at an unprecedented pace globally that it makes the mantra that fossil fuels are cheaper pretty underwhelming and factually fraudulent.
A recent report by Bloomberg indicates that renewables are beating fossil fuels 2 to 1. It indicates that “while two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels”.
This is a fact not open for argument and one will wonder why it took the Government of Ghana that long to notice it. But this is why the VRA deserves applause. They have recognized that politics is about policy and policy is about the search of alternatives— outcomes that are better than others. Wind and solar will keep expanding at record rates and we have to plug ourselves into the opportunities they offer to transition into a low carbon economy and towards climate resilience as outlined by our National Climate Change Policy (NCCP).
It is now or never!