Energy efficiency & the conservation dilemma
The Energy Commission’s push for high energy efficiency is being thwarted by importers
Many believe that, with rigorous discipline in Ghana’s electricity production and usage, the country could transform into West Africa’s electric energy superpower.
Currently, even while bedeviled with capital and management challenges in power generation, transmission and distribution, the country is the electricity leader in the West African sub-region with a per capita consumption of 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) - almost double that of the country’s closest production rival, Cote d’Ivoire.
This potential reality is not lost on Ghanaian energy authorities who, over the past four years, have been increasing investments in electricity generation capacity with the goal of boosting annual total electricity output to 5,000 megawatts (MW) by 2015, from the current 2,000MW.
However, this goal cannot be attained in isolation. There must be a commensurate effort on the other side of the equation, to reduce electricity waste. It is clear that a major part of the waste of electricity in the country is attributable to the use of highly inefficient appliances, especially by domestic end-users.
As a result, electric energy upstream regulator, the Energy Commission (EC), has embarked on a spirited drive to promote energy conservation and efficiency, which would complement improved electricity generation and transmission, to ensure the country’s end goal of becoming a net exporter of electric energy.
Ghana is now considered a high consumer of electricity when compared with other developed countries. Energy consumption through refrigeration in Ghana during
2006, for instance, was 1400 kilowatt hours per year, contrasting sharply with 605kWh/y for the US and 540kWh/y for Europe.
The EC’s efforts, however, already look set to be undermined by importers in the second-hand appliance market, a market whose products, such as used refrigerators and freezers, have the reputation of being highly inefficient. The used fridges, mostly designed for temperate climates and thus wasteful in tropical climates, are also those discarded in Europe for
being old models and in some cases for carrying ozone depleting properties.
The sector regulator, EC, has served notice that it will commence the enforcement of energy efficiency standards and labeling from January 1, 2011 and thus effectively, ban the importation and distribution of second-hand fridges and freezers as the country’s laws disallows the trade. But the importers and distributors of used refrigerators are adamant.
They say Regulation 2009 LI 1958, the law that bans the sale and distribution of second-hand fridges and freezers, throws many people employed in the trade out of their livelihood, and also make fridges unaffordable to a significant number of people. So in spite of the ban, the importation of used fridges continues.
In order to meet a charge by Ghana’s parliament to achieve the European Union standard of refrigeration efficiency, the EC in 2007 introduced a standard labeling system for importers of refrigerators and freezers that indicates the appliances’ annual kilowatt hour consumption rates, thereby allowing consumers to estimate how much savings they could make by purchasing a particular appliance. The labels use a star grading system with five-star fridges consuming less than 250kWh/y and a one-star fridge having a power consumption range of 400-500 kWh/y. For freezers, a five-star appliance consumes less than 300kWh/y, while a single star appliance uses up to between 500-650kWh/y.
Given current electricity tariffs for domestic end-users, which translates into 17 pesewas/kWh, a consumer with a 250 kWh/y refrigerator could be making savings of about GH¢215.15 on annual refrigeration bills, while a 500 kWh/y refrigerator would save GH¢153.00, compared to the current average refrigeration energy consumption of 1,400kWh/y, which translates into an annual bill of GH¢238.00.
Put differently, one is looking at energy conservation of between 900kWh/y and 1,150 kWh/y per person for high efficiency fridges; and the figures become even more astounding at a macro level should one assume that half a million consumers use inefficient, second-hand fridges nationally. “The tremendous savings to be made from energy conservation and efficiency is enough to create more wealth and consequently more investments for the country that could easily rack up the employment figures,” said Mr. Kofi Agyarko, Head, Energy Efficiency and Climate Change of the Energy Commission.
But stressing the point, the Executive Director of electricity conservation agency, Energy Foundation, Nana Asare Afriyie, said empirical evidence showed energy conservation methods yielded better outcomes than efforts at increasing generation capacity.
“An exercise undertaken to retrofit the University of Ghana, Legon with energy efficient lamps led to 50% reductions in their electricity bills in the first year, and has now leveled off at 35% of the pre-retrofitting bills,” Nana Asare Afriyie said. Indeed, the EC’s efforts at energy conservation and efficiency have been impressive. The EC, spearheading the swapping of six million inefficient incandescent lamps in people’s homes for energy saving lamps (otherwise called CFLs), since 2007, as a load reduction measure, led to peak hour savings of 124MW and a delay in increasing thermal energy generation which allowed government ample time to raise the needed investment of $105 million for the necessary expansion works. As of September 2009, the penetration of CFLs in the country had increased from 20% in 2007 to 79% and incandescent lamps have been reduced from 58% in 2007 to 3% in 2009.
The measure also resulted in carbon dioxide savings of about 112,320 tons per annum and a monthly average household income savings of about GH¢31 in 25 districts nationwide. “Having chalked such high levels of success at energy use efficiency and conservation, it follows logically that we should extend the exercise to other inefficient household electrical appliances,” says
“We only need to come up with creative ways of marketing the seemingly more expensive but highly efficient appliances in a manner that will lighten the overall cost on lower income earners,” he added.
The Executive Secretary of the EC, Dr. Ofosu Ahenkorah, has disclosed that the Commission has developed a plan, which aims at sourcing and utilizing funding from the Global Environment Fund in an effort to phase out the use of inefficient second-hand appliances and to promote the use of energy efficient fridges and air conditioners. The EC will also seek out multilateral funds to support the plan. The EC’s plan currently submitted to the Ministry of Energy, if approved, will allow low energy consuming refrigerators and air conditioners to be sold to consumers at a rebate, and also make the acquisition of new fridges less
Energy experts concur that current efforts by the EC and the Energy Foundation, aimed at educating the public on the need for conservation and efficiency in electric energy use, have limits, and these institutions need to be complemented with the implementation and enforcement of legislation on energy efficiency standards and labelling. “Indeed, government should ensure that CEPS, which is the first watchdog for quality and standards implementation, with regards to imports, simply not allow the clearance of used fridges and freezers at the ports,” an importer of new refrigerators said. Energy conservationists in Ghana feel that the drive to make the nation more energy efficient could be jeopardized given the country’s past record on new initiatives. Lobbyists have had success in convincing government stakeholders to act in ways contrary to what the conservationist believe is the long-term good of the country.
Importers of agricultural products, such as rice, as well as processed foods and other manufactured products have succeeded in pushing the affordability argument with past governments. However, this ultimately allowed an influx of sub-standard foodstuffs - with the devastating impact of such decisions on the economy.
Surely, tensions are likely to accelerate once implementation of the efficiency standards legislation begins on January 1, 2011. Politicians could adapt creative administrative measures, similar to slapping special levies on imported raw material inputs by local manufacturers, to the importers of used fridges. Notching up import duties on used fridges, while lowering it for importers of brand new ones, in addition, creative marketing packages for new appliances would help make used fridges less competitive in the market.
Who will be the winners? Presumably, everybody stands to gain. Both importers and users of second-hand fridges will appreciate the benefits of migrating toward importation and use of new, highly efficient fridges and freezers and the government is likely to achieve tremendous savings in energy conservation.
Such developments will put Ghana one step closer on the climb to being assured of energy supply security. Now, everyone just has to agree that it is a step they want to take.