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Africa’s quest for energy Renewables charge ahead.

The continent of Africa is shockingly short of electricity. Nearly 600 million people are without electricity altogether, while electricity consumption in Spain exceeds that of all of Sub-Saharan Africa, except South Africa.

Despite modest economic growth, countries in Africa could develop far faster and better with the help of electricity. So too could individual households. Africa’s poorest households are spending around US$10 kilowatts an hour on lighting – 20 times more than Africa’s richest households – and far more than people living in developed countries.

According to the Africa Progress Report 2015, it would take the average Tanzanian around eight years to consume as much electricity as an American does in one month.

But while the challenge may seem insurmountable, there’s plenty of hope to power up African countries, particularly through renewable energy. According to the recent McKinsey ‘Brighter Africa’ report, the continent boasts 10 terawatts of potential energy capacity. It estimates much of this will come from solar, with a potential of 350 gigawatts of hydro, half of it anticipated from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

McKinsey has rated wind capacity at 109 GW. It expects geothermal to generate only 15 GW, but this will be extremely important for Ethiopia and Kenya, which hold 80% of the reserves. Looking to the future, McKinsey forecasts that gas will account for more than 40% of the electricity generated from 2020 onward, with hydro remaining a very important technology. Solar is expected to speed up further after 2030, representing 8% of the generation mix by 2040 and more than 30% of capacity additions between 2030 and 2040.

Coal will still be part of the energy mix, but its importance in the continent’s fuel mix will fade from 51% to 23%.

“One of the biggest challenges we have on the continent is that the planning doesn’t outlast the political office. Politicians want to be recogniSed, so they do short term projects which people can see before they leave office,” says Nelisiwe Magubane, former Director General of Energy and Chairman of Matleng Energy Solutions.

“We need to have planning that outlasts a political term.”

Senior energy consultant for Ngali Energin in Rwanda agrees: “If you’re expecting investors to put down billions, you have to put in place predictable tax regimes and stable regulations and make it practical to invest.”

The amount of money being ploughed into African megaprojects, particularly in energy and power distribution, increased by nearly 50% in 2014, according to a study by Deloitte. One of the most exciting projects was the Grand Inga Hydro Power Project, seen as a potential continental game changer. McKinsey estimates that the massive project could help save US$32 billion in capital spending and 65 megatons in carbon emissions.

“We are really excited that the DRC will house one of the largest hydro power projects in the world. The Grand Inga Hydro Power Project at 40 GW of hydro-electricity will bring closer the realiSation of Africa’s potential,” the acting CEO of Eskom, Brian Molefe recently told the PowerGen conference in Cape Town.

US President Barack Obama’s US$7 billion power plan, Power Africa, is also hoping to add 30 000 MW of new and cleaner power generation over a five-year period in several countries across the continent. Power Africa is working with technical and regulatory experts, governments and companies to boost electricity.

The Africa Progress Report, generated by the Africa Progress Panel headed by former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, suggests that the way forward is to build an integrated African grid, with sustainable energy at its core.

The International Energy Agency estimated that increased regional integration could cut average electricity costs by 8% on the continent and as much as 30% in some countries.

With a sharp drop in renewable technology prices, many energy planners are increasingly seeing the potential in renewable sources. Projects are dotted throughout Africa, from one of Africa’s largest wind farms in Ethiopia to a massive boost in hydro power in Angola.

Source : www.moneyweb.co.za/
Posted On: 8/3/2015 12:00:00 AM

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