For emergent economies such as Ghana and much of Africa, development has become not just a central foundation but also the realpolitik of democratic governance; to the extent that scholars have described development as a ‘civil religion’ and a ‘battle cry’ of nations.

In the context of the global development trajectory, energy plays a pivotal role because of its ability to affect other sectors of human and economic progress; as illustrated by its acknowledgement in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7. Communication has been demonstrated to play an integral part in the process and pursuit of development generally. What is empirically unclear is the extent to which actors within the energy sector appreciate and apply communication towards achieving the vision of energy for sustainable development. Using a combination of qualitative methods ‒document analysis, interviews and observations‒, this research sought to explore the ways in which communication is used by major institutional actors in Ghana’s energy sector to achieve the SDG on energy. The findings suggest that Communication departments in Ghana’s energy sector agencies play both managerial and technician roles although there is more concentration on the technician role. Some managerial roles identified were advising and reputation management. Some technician roles identified were public information and education, issuing strategic press releases, organizing summits and conferences, research, monitoring and evaluation. Nature of communicating SDG 7 initiatives was mainly instrumental although agencies in the sector were making strides to incorporate participatory forms by engaging in door- to-door campaigns where direct feedback and support of the public can be obtained and sustained. The Ministry of Energy was taking steps to address coordination challenges by having inter-sectorial and inter-ministerial deliberations on various SDG 7 related initiatives


       Background to the study

Development has become a central foundation for modern societies where every nation strives to achieve some form of improvement and positive transformation in all important spheres of life. It is therefore unsurprising that Khalid (2012) describes development as a ‘civil religion’ and a ‘battle cry’ of nations. With time, development has become associated with the idea of sustainability. This shift in development approach is reflected internationally, in the shift in policy thrust towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2016-2030, after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda ended in 2015.

Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the present needs, whiles still making provision for the future generation’s needs (UNDP, 2018). In September 2015, world leaders met at a historic UN Summit and adopted 17 SDGs that are geared towards an agenda for Sustainable Development. This means that for the next fifteen years, UN member states are expected to be guided by these 17 SDGs in structuring efforts to eradicate all forms of poverty, combat inequalities and deal with energy and climate change issues.

The SDGs are founded on the achievements and progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and aim to further comprehensively address the interrelated facets and kinds of poverty. The new goals are different because they directly call for action by nations‒ poor, rich and middle- income ‒ to advance prosperity in a sustainable manner.

They identify that eradicating poverty needs to be complemented by strategies that promote economic growth and tackle a range of social and economic needs like education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while addressing climate change and environmental protection issues.

In the context of development and the global development agenda, energy plays a pivotal role because of its ability to affect other sectors of the economy and eventually eradicate poverty (Kaygusuz, 2011). The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Report on “Energy for Sustainable Development” acknowledged that energy supply was an underlining prerequisite in achieving most of the MDGs although it was not clearly mentioned (UNECA, 2006). In the report, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) recognized that energy plays a critical role in the development process; first, as a domestic necessity, but also as a factor of production whose cost directly affects prices of other goods and services, and the competitiveness of enterprises.

In the health setting for instance, energy allows for refrigeration of medicines and sterilisation of equipment. It also aids in industrialisation by powering machines. In education, it enables teaching and learning and allows access to media, communication and ICTs that facilitate the learning process. It may be argued, then, that the realisation of other goals is directly or implicitly reliant upon the state of a country’s energy stock and supply.

The United Nations has validated the critical role of energy by including it in the SDGs for agenda 2030 (UNDP, 2018). The achievement of energy sustainability is seen as a crucial component of

attaining sustainability in general given the direct linkage between energy and other drivers of development‒ economic or social (Rosen, 2009).

The far-reaching influence of energy issues in driving and achieving other sustainable development goals therefore calls for research and policy interests around the various ways in which nations can “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (SDG 7). Even though communication has generally been found to be essential in the development process (Agunga, 1997; Khalid, 2012; Servaes et al, 2012), it is often the least attended to element in the development mix. This study therefore explored the manner in which communication is used by major institutional stakeholders to advance SDG 7 in Ghana.

       Major Institutional Stakeholders in Ghana’s Energy Sector

Ghana’s energy sector is directed and supervised by the Ministry of Energy. The sector is broadly divided into the Power and Petroleum sub-sectors. Under the Power sector, generation is from sources such as hydroelectricity; thermal power, which is fuelled by light crude oil; natural gas and diesel; as well as solar energy. The total installed capacity for existing plants in Ghana as at 2016 was 4,132MW; comprising Hydro (38%), Thermal (61%) and solar (1%) (Energy Outlook, 2016). The Volta River Authority (VRA) and the Bui Power Authority (BPA) are responsible for power generation. The Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO) is the sole agency that handles transmission and operates the National Interconnected Transmission System. The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCo) distribute power to the South and North of Ghana respectively (Energy Outlook, 2016).

The petroleum sector in other jurisdictions is divided into upstream, midstream and downstream. However, in Ghana, the industry is separated into upstream and downstream. The upstream sector

covers activities such as exploration and production of petroleum via refining. Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) are institutions in the upstream. The downstream industry deals with the storage and transportation to marketing of the petroleum products. Institutions under the downstream sector are: Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST), Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company, Ghana National Gas Company, Ghana Oil Company Limited and Volta Aluminium Company. Institutions in charge of regulating and overseeing operations in the energy sector include: Ministry of Energy (MOE), Energy Commission (EC), Petroleum Commission (PC), and National Petroleum Authority (NPA). This multiplicity of actors in the sector suggests a need for communication if their various interdependent functions are to be effectively coordinated and effectively executed (Energy Outlook, 2016).

             The Ministry of Energy

The Ministry of Energy is tasked with ensuring reliable high quality energy services at the least cost to all sectors of the economy. It does this by developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating all policies in the energy sector. The goal of the energy ministry is to ensure that energy services are readily available and accessible in an environmentally efficient manner.

             Energy Commission

The Energy Commission was established by an Act of the Ghanaian Parliament, the Energy Commission Act, 1997 (Act 541) and is mandated to control and manage the development and utilization of energy resources of Ghana to provide affordable and reliable energy supplies for socio-economic development of Ghanaians. The commission is also tasked to by law to promulgate the legal, regulatory and supervisory framework for all energy service providers in Ghana. They also grant authorisations for the transmission, wholesale, supply, distribution and sale of electricity and natural gas and related matters. The Act setting up the Commission (Act

541) sets out the following mandate to guide its mission:

  • Serve as the Government’s energy policy adviser by making national energy policy recommendations to the Minister of Energy.
  • Formulate national policies for the development and utilization of indigenous energy resources, in particular, renewable energy: solar, wind and biomass;
  • Prepare, review and update periodically indicative national plans to ensure that all reasonable demands for energy are met; and
  • Promote energy efficiency and productive uses of electricity, natural gas and petroleum products.

             National Petroleum Authority

The Authority regulates, supervises and monitors goings-on in the petroleum downstream industry. The Authority among other functions monitors and regulates the price of petroleum products using prescribed petroleum pricing formula and grants licenses to applicants to operate businesses within this sector. It also has the mandate to keep track records on licenses, petroleum

products and petroleum marketing service providers and provides operating principles for petroleum marketing operations. The authority further protects the interests of consumers and petroleum service providers; monitors standards of performance and quality of the provision of petroleum services and initiates and conducts investigations into standards of quality of petroleum products offered to consumers.

             Electricity Company of Ghana-(ECG)

The Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) is a limited liability Company wholly owned by the Government of Ghana. ECG was incorporated under the Companies Code, 1963 (Act 179) in February 1997. It began as the Electricity Department on 1st April 1947 responsible for distribution power in the entire country and later became the Electricity Division in 1962. It was subsequently converted into the Electricity Corporation of Ghana by NLCD 125 in 1967.

ECG distributes electricity to six political/administrative regions in southern Ghana namely, Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Volta and Western Region.

       Overview of the Energy Situation in Ghana

Ghana has recorded series of power instabilities that have threatened livelihoods and industries at large. Although successive governments have had to contend with this deficit (Anane, 2015), most solutions have been rather ad-hoc, and essentially unsustainable; leading to periodic national energy crises.

Interventions have mainly been by way of increasing supply to meet demand. Notable among such interventions are supply from power barges, the West African Gas Pipeline and Jubilee Fields.

In terms of access, National Electrification Scheme (NES) Programme (1988) was started to ensure complete access to electricity. The program started to support the economic recovery Programme initiated by the then government to increase the overall socioeconomic development of the nation. The extension of electricity to rural areas was a way to facilitate rapid socioeconomic development, of the rural areas to reduce rural–urban migration. Currently, all regional and district capitals are connected to the national grid (Energy Outlook, 2016).

Subsequently, the Self-Help Electrification Programme (SHEP) program was initiated with the main objective of assisting rural communities to get access to electricity. Since its inception, the population of Ghana with access to electricity has increased from 33% to 76% (Energy Outlook, 2016).