Power Ships - Short Term Solutions to Africa’s Power Woes

Power ships are proving to be a quick-fix temporary solution to electricity shortages in Africa.
Published: Tue 10 Mar 2015

Ghana is struggling to meet its power demand which is estimated at 1,400MW and rising at a steady 10% per year, according to government figures. Ghana’s rapid economic growth in recent years has left the state unable to provide customers with a constant power supply, resulting in regular brownouts across the country which will obviously have a negative impact on the country’s economic development.

In response to this crisis, Ghana has turned to power ships for a short term solution.

Turkish Karadeniz Holding will be providing two electricity-generating vessels to power-hungry Ghana in a 10-year supply deal. Effectively, the power ships will generate 21% of Ghana's electricity over that period.

Karadeniz builds what are effectively floating power stations which plug into electricity grids after berthing. The stations run on fuel oil but can use natural gas as an alternative.

Power ships covering power shortfalls

The power ships, which are typically converted freighters or other vessels, are aimed at serving mainly developing countries with inadequate onshore infrastructure to cover shortfalls in their electricity supply. The agreement between Karadeniz Holding subsidiary Karpowership Ghana Company Limited (KPS GHANA) and the state-run Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) includes the direct supply of 450MW of electricity to Ghana's grid every year.

"We can extend this 10-year deal by another 10 years. We can even sell electricity to neighbouring countries through Ghana," says Karadeniz Holding's chairman Orhan Karadeniz.

Building a power ship costs around €1.5 million (US$2 million), Karadeniz said, adding that the company was in financing talks with both domestic and foreign banks and aimed to finalise a deal soon.

Power ships will help boost Africa’s economic growth

The Ghana investment is Karadeniz Holding's first in Africa. It already produces electricity for Iraq and Lebanon, through part of its fleet of seven power ships with a combined capacity of 1,100MW.

Recognizing Africa’s need for electricity, Karadeniz said: "There is an electricity shortage of around 100,000MW in Africa that needs to be fulfilled urgently. This investment needs to be done."

Africa boasts a rich source of minerals and oil and the continent needs reliable and cost effective power supplies to be able to create successful industries from these sectors. Currently, the African continent is highly dependent on costly diesel imports for power generation due to a chronic shortage of electricity. Karadeniz points out that these countries, with their abundant oil and gas reserves, will need more electricity when the reserves come into production. He says that the countries will become richer and their demand for electricity will rise rapidly.

While power ships certainly provide immediate relief to a region’s electricity pressures, it should be seen as a temporary solution only. In order to attain stable economic growth, countries need to develop new sources of stable, abundant and cost-effective power which can certainly be harvested from solar on the African continent. Ghana's aim is to meet 10% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020, with a FIT arrangement introduced to help encourage developers to take a chance on the emerging nation. Hopefully more focus is placed on these plans to avoid the ongoing use of power ships which really should be there to fill power gaps only. [Engerati – Floating Power Ships Fill Africa’s Energy Gaps.]