The Volta River Authority (VRA), operator of the 912MW Akasombo dam on the river Volta in Ghana, is refuting recent press speculation that the dam is to lose its biggest customer, the Volta Aluminium Company (Valco), when the West African gas pipeline (WAGP) becomes operational.

Valco director of energy, Gary Stauffer, has apologised to VRA after he was quoted in a newspaper as saying that the marriage between Valco and the VRA had turned ‘sour’ following bouts of unreliability on the part of VRA, costing the aluminium company millions of dollars.

Stauffer reportedly said that the injury caused to Valco by VRA’s failure to cope with continuous dry weather and growing demand had been compounded by recent hikes in its tariffs.

Ellen Effilsie, director of organisational services at VRA, said that the company’s tariffs had remained unchanged since 1998, and that the operation of the Akasombo scheme had been largely unaffected by draught since 1983.

‘When we saw the story we contacted Mr Stauffer and he has since written to us confirming that he was misquoted,’ she said. ‘He did say that Valco would consider buying gas from the new pipeline when it materialises, which is fair enough, but he did not say that VRA was unreliable.’

Valco pays over US$40M a year to the Volta River Authority for the power it purchases from Akasombo. The company is VRA’s guaranteed power purchaser and provides the foreign exchange needed to pay off the US$200M loan taken out to build the dam.

Demand for electricity in Ghana is growing at 10% a year. To meet this, and in spite of looming competition from the WAGP, VRA plans to build a 400MW hydro plant at Bui on the Black Volta, a tributary of the Volta Lake, if it can secure funding.

Feasibility studies have been completed on the site and VRA has signed a memorandum of understanding with Brown and Root of the UK to undertake the project, which will cost around US$450M.