Reliable and sustainable energy supply plays a significant role in the application of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the various service and manufacturing sectors which have revolutionized the world economy in the past few decades. The interdependence of reliable electric power and telecommunication infrastructures have been the pivot around which economic, social and environment dimensions of sustainable development revolves. Many studies have proven that ICT is an all-purpose technology that has significantly changed the process of economic activities in the world in the past few decades. This is evident in the recent past economic development of United States of America and many European countries. ICT is also propelling development of many other countries across the world.
The emergence of mobile telephony in Ghana and many other African countries have led to rapid and unprecedented growth in wireless subscribers which can be used as a spring board for ICT development. The demand for electricity that can be provided for this growing telecom and ICT networks and facilities in Ghana is expected to increase, as a result of increasing population, passion for modern ICT services and development in industrialization. Currently, the urban dwellers in Ghana mainly have access to ICT facilities because about fifty nine percent (59%) of the population resides in the rural areas where access to basic telecom infrastructure and reliable electricity remains a challenge. Both urban and rural areas have limited or no access to grid power and this could deny Ghanaians from reaping the benefits of information age.
To overcome these challenge of electricity supply, it is important that electric power generation from naturally replenishing sources such as solar PV and wind energy are given high priority. Solar PV should be given the necessary support by policy makers, telecom operators and all other stakeholders in Ghana and other African countries because, these technologies have the potential of possibly generating cheap and reliable electricity from sunlight, a renewable source that is abundant and readily available across the country and the entire continent. The long term goal of this research is to contribute to the promotion of sustainable and reliable energy generation for the telecommunication industry in Ghana, and also to provide a basis for further research on alternative sources of power supply to the telecom facilities which can minimize/eliminate the existing frequent electric power outages.
Due to the interdisciplinary character of the issues relating to both renewable energy and Telecom/ICT, the author interviewed a number of experts, Telecom operators and other stakeholders. Questionnaire were distributed to residents in the three selected study sites in Ghana and software simulation was carried out using the selected study site load requirement for determining the renewable energy capacity in the hybrid system that will provide sustainable power.
The research reveals policy and regulatory barriers that needs to be addressed. The study also show that, the use of renewable energy systems are much cheaper and more reliable for effective operation of the Base Transceiver Stations. The use of renewable energy could help speedy propagation of ICTs to the grassroots in all parts of the country. It could inspire strong collaboration amongst the stakeholders within the industry namely the telecom operators, government, NGOs, academia and community information centres in the rural and remote areas based on a business model that will affect the sustainability of ICTs in order to lessen the digital divide.
This study contributes to better understanding of the problems related to wider renewable energy and Telecom/ICT penetration. It also proves that the decentralized approach of power supply is ideal to surmount the current challenges of conventional power generation and this system is equally competitive. It equally provides decision makers in Ghana guidance on the needs and alternatives if a higher share of renewable energy is to be sought for development.
KENNETH K. TSIVOR
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