September 22, 2017

Decentralise, find optimal mix: the answer to Africa’s power challenges

Decentralisation of generation and determining the optimal energy mix for available resources and needs are crucial for addressing Africa’s energy challenges.

 This is according to experts on the advisory board of the upcoming POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa conference and exhibition in Johannesburg.

Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) MD and POWER-GEN advisory board member, Knox Msebenzi, says: “The single biggest issue in Africa is that we as a continent have ample energy resources but very little power. It is tempting to hold up a particular energy technology, such as nuclear or renewables, as the solution. To do so would be to miss the point. We need to be asking how much of each is appropriate; and identify the optimal energy mix based on needs and available resources.”

 Msebenzi says: “If you look at a country that must drive industrial growth and has ample coal reserves, it does not make sense for it to just sit on coal and not invest in clean coal generation. In massive cities like Lagos, for example, with an estimated population of around 21 million, powering development needs with renewables would be unthinkable – they need baseload. This is why we advocate a comprehensive energy mix strategy on a country by country basis.”

 Bertha Dlamini, industry expert and Brand Ambassador for POWER-GEN Africa 2017, says most countries on the continent do not have sufficient energy capacity to support their economic growth targets.

 Dlamini notes: “One of Africa’s top challenges is addressing the scourge of energy poverty. Decentralised energy generation is the answer to eradicating energy poverty, community by community and industry by industry. Generating electricity with small, modular, renewable energy solutions makes sense.”   

 “Best practice is to understand local context and deploy technologies in each market that are in line with the maturity level of the country’s infrastructure and availability of energy resources. When designing commercial models for energy projects, it is essential to ensure that each project’s finance structure is commercially viable and the risks associated are intelligently allocated to ensure the success of each project,” she says.

 Collaboration is required for these projects to be successful. She says collaboration is required between public sector, private sector and civil society to create project ownership structures that will ensure the success of decentralised energy generation and distribution projects, in particular, such structures should attract and sustain relationships with local and international investors.”

 Nigel Blackaby, Director of Conferences at event organisers PennWell International Power Group, says stepped up power generation, nuclear and renewable energy are top of mind issues among stakeholders across Africa. “As part of our fact-finding ahead of POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa 2017, the PennWell team and advisory board members undertook visits to stakeholders in various African countries, where we found that the nuclear question, optimal use of renewables and funding for IPP programmes were key issues across the continent. These are among the topics that will come under discussion at POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa 2017.”

 POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa 2017 will be staged from 18 – 20 July at the Sandton Convention Centre. The event is attended by over 3,000 power industry stakeholders, utilities and sub-Saharan government officials from pan-Africa and abroad.  For more information, go to http://www.powergenafrica.com/index.html

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