February 19, 2013 (Centre Spread)
The heat generated by the power outages being experienced nation-wide
promises to get hotter as two bodies in the power sector, the
Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Sunon Asogli, a private power
producer, battle over a disputed $9 million debt that Sunon Asogli
claims ECG owes it.
While Sunon Asogli, which provides 14 per cent of the entire power
supply of ECG, claims it is owed $9 million, the ECG insists it is
indebted to Sunon Asogli to the tune of $5.5 million.
interview with Graphic Online, the Director of Sunon Asogli, Togbe Afede
XIV, said “payment delays are creating serious cash-flow problems and
jeopardising expansion plans to add 360 megawatts and a further 1,000
megawatts of power”.
Although the Managing Director of the ECG, Mr
William Hutton-Mensah, admitted the ECG owed Sunon Asogli, he disputed
the $9 million figure, explaining that “after the reconciliation of
figures, we now owe Sunon Asogli $5.5 million”.
Reacting to the
ECG’s $5.5 million figure, Togbe Afede, who is also the President of the
Volta Regional House of Chiefs, simply stated, “We have also reconciled
our figures and they owe us $9 million. I will consult with my partners
on the next line of action to be taken.”
Sunon Asogli’s plant
produces 200 megawatts of power but is currently not operating because
of a break in the supply of gas to its plant by the damage to the West
African Gas Company’s (WAGPCO) pipeline in August 2012.
disturbing in the emerging controversy between the two companies is that
consumers of electricity will suffer if the misunderstanding is not
Sunon Asogli’s inability to operate, the
destruction of the ECG’s Achimota sub-station and other factors have
resulted in the current load-shedding exercise.
difficulties faced by Sunon Asogli as a result of the debt owed it by
the ECG, Togbe Afede said, “The worst part is, aside from maintaining
the plant and taking care of labour, our situation is worsened by the
fact that since we stopped production last year, the ECG has not
finished paying for what we produced.”
relationship with the ECG, he said in January 2011, it began producing
electricity for sale to the ECG under a power purchase agreement (PPA)
the company had earlier signed with the ECG in 2008.
that in August 2012, the pipeline that transported gas from Nigeria to
Ghana was damaged, thereby “greatly affecting the operations of Sunon
Asogli. The situation is tough”.
According to him, Sunon Asogli was
expected to pay for gas ahead of time and it was, therefore, unfortunate
that the ECG was not taking expeditious steps to pay its debt.
Asogli is the most efficient and reliable power supplier in the country
with a plant capacity of 200 MW. It, therefore, deserves to be
supported if the government desires private investors to help meet its
target of 5,000 MW by 2015, instead of the current frustration we are
enduring,” Togbe Afede said.
The issue, he pointed out, was “if
gas were to be supplied today, Sunon Asogli will not be able to pay”,
adding, “If we were in production, we would not be experiencing the
power problems we are currently facing today.”
situation, he explained, was that his relationship with the investors
had been strained because “they think I am not doing much to claim their
money for them”.
Responding to Togbe Afede’s sentiments, the ECG
boss explained that the ECG would continue to honour its debt obligation
by paying GH¢500,000 weekly.
“The last time we made payment was
last week. We will pay GH¢500,000 this week and pay another instalment
next week,” Mr Hutton-Mensah said.
According to him, the
load-shedding exercise had reduced the ECG’s revenue generation and that
had accounted for its inability to meet its debt obligation on time.
more light on the issue, the acting Public Relations Officer of the
ECG, Mr William Boateng, said the load-shedding exercise was greatly
affecting the ECG’s revenue mobilisation and “so affecting our financial
obligation to our creditors”.
He said “the commitment is there”
and expressed the hope that WAGPCO would resume the supply of gas by the
end of March 2013 for the situation to be normalised.
Mr Boateng pleaded with consumers to bear with the ECG in these trying moments.