Discussing 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 Knox Msebenzi says that 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, he says. Msebenzi suggests that we need to be asking how much of each is appropriate; and identify the optimal energy mix based on needs and available resources.

According to Msebenzi, 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, says Msebenzi. NIASA advocates a comprehensive energy mix strategy on a country by country basis.

Bertha Dlamini, industry expert and Brand Ambassador for Power-Gen Africa, says that most countries on the continent do not have sufficient energy capacity to support their economic growth targets. Dlamini notes that 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, she says – generating electricity with small, modular, renewable energy solutions makes sense.

According to Dlamini, 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 of PennWell International Power Group, says that stepped up power generation, nuclear and renewable energy are top of mind issues among stakeholders across Africa. The nuclear question, optimal use of renewables, and funding for IPP programmes are key issues across the continent, and will come under discussion at Power-Gen & DistribuTech Africa from 18 – 20 July at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Contact Leigh Angelo, ITPComm, Tel 011 869-9153, leigh@tradeprojects.co.za

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