The Volta River Authority (VRA), the company responsible for electricity generation and distribution from Lake Volta, the primary source of power in the country, has warned that the water levels in the lake are dangerously low and power from the Akosombo dam is likely to be affected.

The company has told its main industrial customers that the result is likely to be either rationing or a tariff increase to pay for imported power. Electricity users, however, have blamed the problems on mismanagement.

Proposals by the VRA to import power from the Cote d’Ivoire or to cut supply by around 20 per cent will create difficulties for mining companies, the Association of Ghana Industries claims. One company, Kaiser Aluminium Corp., is claiming breach of contract after being told its number of aluminium production lines will have to be cut from four to three.

Most of Ghana’s power comes from the 913 MW Akosombo plant with a further 160 MW from Kpong. Kaiser helped fund the construction of Akosombo in the 1960s in exchange for cheap electricity. A 30 year contract ended in 1996, but the company wants to take up a further 20 year option.

VRA imposed a 300 per cent tariff increase in July 1997 which has now been reversed by the president. VRA has warned that price increases will be necessary soon to avoid power shortfalls. The utility is already importing 200 MW from Cote d’Ivoire at a cost of more than five times its own fixed retail price.

Water levels in Lake Volta have fallen to 75 m. If they fall below 73 m, VRA has to start shutting the water inlets to the turbines in the Akosombo plant.

VRA is building a 300 MW combined cycle plant in western Ghana. The first 100 MW are due this month and further capacity later in the year, but the cost will be higher than power from Akosombo.