Ghanaian state-owned power utility the Volta River Authority (VRA) is seeking private partners to help boost the efficiency of its gas- and oil-fired power plants.

Over 20 firms have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring shares in the VRA’s thermal power assets.

According to VRA chair Kweku Awotwi, who spoke with the Reuters news service, the government has not yet decided what percentage of its thermal plants it will sell.

The utility lists its total installed capacity as 2456 MW, with 1325 MW coming from thermal plants and the rest from hydropower as well as one 2.5 MW solar PV plant. Awotwi said the thermal plants are currently operating at 50-65 per cent of their capacity.

The VRA’s “management of the hydro assets is world class” but, “for whatever reason, we’ve not been able to replicate that standard for the thermal assets,” he was quoted as saying. 

The gas- and oil-fired plants have contributed to extensive financial losses for the VRA.

In its notice, the government said the sale was part of its “efforts to restructure the energy sector and optimiz[e] … operational efficiency”. 

“Key among these measures is government’s consideration that separating VRA’s thermal operations from its hydro operations will improve their ability to favourably compete with other power generating companies significantly and return it to profitability.”

Meanwhile, Cephas Duse, chair of the VRA’s Senior Staff Association, said in a media briefing this week that the challenges faced by the VRA won’t be solved by selling off its assets.

In a resolution, the staff said it was not consulted on the sale and has petitioned the government to withdraw its notice or risk industrial action.

The staff said they aim to “marshal all available legitimate forces to stall the process and save VRA”.

“Whatever informed the decision to sell was not based on any proper root cause analysis of VRA’s problems and that of the entire power sector,” the staff added.

According to the workers, the sale could result in higher consumer electricity bills, layoffs and even a power crisis if private companies insist that key public institutions pay their bills on time.