Ghana is embracing a renewable energy revolution that is poised to transform the nation’s energy landscape. With a resolute commitment to achieving 10% renewable energy in its power generation mix, Ghana is charting a course toward a sustainable and prosperous future. At the forefront of this ambitious endeavor is the Renewable Energy for Communities Coalition (RE4CC), a dynamic alliance of civil societies dedicated to driving Ghana’s transition to clean, reliable, and affordable energy sources.
In this article, we embark on an investigative journey of Ghana’s renewable energy sector. From the challenges of energy access to the legal framework supporting renewable energy and the grassroots community engagement spearheaded by RE4CC, we delve into the stories that illuminate Ghana’s path toward a greener and brighter tomorrow.
The situation of energy access in Ghana
The situation of energy access in Ghana is a tale of two realities. While the urban areas of the country boast relatively high rates of electricity access, with over 87% of the population having reliable power, the story takes a different turn when we venture into rural communities. In these remote areas, nearly half of the population still lacks access to electricity, leaving them in the shadows of energy poverty.
This glaring disparity in energy access poses significant challenges to the development and well-being of rural communities. Without electricity, schools struggle to provide quality education, healthcare facilities are limited in their capabilities, and economic opportunities remain constrained. Basic daily tasks become burdensome, with households relying on traditional and inefficient sources of energy such as kerosene lamps and woods for cooking.
The lack of energy access not only hinders the progress of individuals and communities but also perpetuates inequalities and widens the gap between urban and rural areas. It is a pressing issue that calls for urgent action to bridge the energy divide and provide equal opportunities for all Ghanaians.
Recognizing the critical importance of energy access for socio-economic development, the Ghanaian government, along with various stakeholders, is spearheading initiatives to expand electricity coverage to rural communities. The goal is to ensure that every Ghanaian, regardless of their location, has access to reliable and affordable electricity.
One of the strategies employed is the expansion of the national power grid, extending its reach to previously underserved areas. This involves infrastructure development, including constructing transmission lines, substations, and distribution networks. Through these efforts, the government aims to connect rural communities to the main grid, providing them with a reliable source of electricity.
However, extending the power grid to remote areas can be challenging due to geographical constraints, logistical complexities, and high costs. In some cases, it may not be feasible or cost-effective to rely solely on grid extension. Therefore, alternative approaches are being explored, with a particular emphasis on decentralized and off-grid solutions.
Renewable energy technologies, such as solar power and small-scale hydroelectric systems, are playing a crucial role in bridging the energy access gap in Ghana.
The legal framework of RE in Ghana
To bridge that gap, Ghana has made significant strides in establishing a robust legal framework to promote and support the development of renewable energy. Recognizing the importance of renewable energy in achieving sustainable development goals and reducing reliance on fossil fuels, the government has enacted several laws and regulations to provide a conducive environment for renewable energy investments and operations.
The cornerstone of Ghana’s legal framework for renewable energy is the Renewable Energy Act of 2011 (Act 832). This legislation serves as the primary law governing the development, management, utilization, and supply of renewable energy for power generation and other related purposes. The Renewable Energy Act aims to create an enabling environment that attracts investments in the renewable energy sector, supports renewable energy projects, and promotes the use of renewable energy technologies.
However, despite this law, in 2018, the percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix remained less than 2%. This objective of generating 10% of renewable energy in the national energy mix was then pushed back to 2030. While Ghana’s legal framework for renewable energy is comprehensive, challenges and gaps still exist.
Power up Ghana with RE
Access to reliable and affordable electricity remains a pressing challenge in Ghana. While significant progress has been made, millions of Ghanaians still lack access to this essential resource. The lack of energy access hampers socio-economic development limits educational opportunities, and restricts productivity.
Renewable energy emerges as a game-changer, capable of propelling Ghana’s progress and bridging the energy access gap. Blessed with abundant solar, wind, hydro, and biomass resources, the nation stands at the precipice of a renewable energy revolution that promises to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and extend the transformative power of electricity to even the remotest corners.
Solar energy, with its unlimited potential, is illuminating previously dark corners of the country. Remote communities, schools, and healthcare centers are embracing solar power, enabling access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Hydroelectric power, a long-standing pillar of Ghana’s energy infrastructure, continues to play a vital role, leveraging the nation’s water resources to generate clean and reliable electricity. The fusion of traditional and emerging renewable energy sources sets the stage for a diverse and resilient energy mix.
RE4CC in the frontline
The RE4CC (Renewable Energy for Communities Coalition) is at the forefront of Ghana’s renewable energy revolution. This coalition brings together various stakeholders, including civil society organizations, community leaders, and renewable energy experts, with a common goal of accelerating the deployment of renewable energy solutions across the country.
RE4CC acts as a catalyst for change, advocating for policies that promote renewable energy, raising awareness about the benefits of clean energy, and promoting community-centered renewable energy projects such as Renewable Energy for Schools, and Renewable Energy for Communities.
Launched after the victory to stop the construction of the 700 MW coal-powered station in Ekumfi Regional and Central region of Ghana, the campaign tries to get the Ghanaian government to commit to investing in renewable energy as a solution to Ghana’s energy challenges. The campaign also runs awareness-raising actions on the benefits of renewable energy getting guidance from the Renewable Energy Act of Ghana and manifestos from the presidential election. Indeed, great work on influencing and lobbying has been done so far. In 2017, one of the leading CSO of the RE4C coalition reviewed the RE Act making their input and suggestions back to parliament under the REact initiative.
As Ghanaians, things have to be spicy sometimes. In 2022, the coalition organized a procession in which they used the launch of the IPCC solutions and adaptation report to call for implementing the RE Act plans to ensure Ghana minimizes its NDCs and that the government commits to its promise of more renewable energy in the energy mix. They walked on the street to educate the public on the release of the IPCC report on solutions and adaptation and why it’s important for Ghana to choose Renewable Energy and provide Solutions.
By fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing, the RE4C coalition is empowering communities to take ownership of their energy future and actively participate in the transition to a sustainable and resilient energy system.
Communities at the center:
Rural women play a key role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods and the overall well-being of the family and community. In July 2022, the RE4C team visited Apam in the central region of Kukurantumi in the eastern region of Ghana to train women and girls on the impacts of climate change and the need to champion the use of renewable energy in their districts.
While education is the key to human capital development, in some remote areas, school-going children still lack access to electricity to learn at night. That situation prompted the implementation of the Solar for School project in St Louis senior high school in the Ashanti region to on one hand distribute solar kits and on the other, educate students on climate change, renewable energy, as well as the need for them to take the lead and become renewable energy agents of change that can drive the coalition’s vision of a 100% Renewables in Ghana.
Through training, exhibition, processions, advocacy, and policy review, the RE4C team created a platform for women and young people to become Renewable Energy Champions to enhance the achievement of 10% Renewable energy in Ghana’s energy mix in 2030.