How can Africa become a fully 'powered' continent?
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With Africa’s population expected to rise to 1.8 billion in the next 35 years, demand for energy is expected to grow fourfold which means that countries will need to add 292 Gigawatts of new capacity to meet this demand.
Experts at the just concluded World Economic Forum on Africa, suggest that leveraging investments into renewable, digital and energy-efficient technologies will spur Africa’s ambitions to a fully electrified continent.
Erastus J. O. Mwencha, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission said that governments need to create policies and an environment that will enable the move for renewable energy, and encourage public-private partnership in the energy sector—which will consequently lead to the electrification of the continent thus boosting economic transformation.
“It is not acceptable in this day and age, that the continent has more than 600 million people without access to energy. For every three people, two do not have access to power. It is a scandal,” He said.
Mwencha added, “Governments should develop strategies to mobilise resources and bring the private sector players on board to drive the continent’s needed energy.
There are many initiatives in place, on the continent, even under the NEPAD program we are developing policies but also encouraging public private partnership.”
A study by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), indicates that Africa needs about $1 Trillion to close the energy gap, this, Mwencha, said will scale up investments into large power infrastructure, arguing that it would strengthen regional integration and sharing of energy resources to increase energy penetration on the continent.
Jasandra Nyker, the Chief Executive Officer, of BioTherm Energy (Pty) Ltd, a renewable energy investment and independent project development platform focused on sub-Saharan Africa said that, Africa’s absolute electrification is possible and, investing in smart energy will be key in unlocking the possibility.
“The future of smart energy is very bright in Africa,” said Nyker, adding that growth rates and the fact that large populations are migrating to cities in the next 20 years, there is a lot of opportunity for both on and off grid technology as well as power facilities to come online.
Nyker reiterated that the difference towards smart energy penetration can only be realised if the governments are willing to deploy renewable energy policies.
Jubril Adewale Tinubu, the Group Chief Executive of Oando Plc, gas and oil energy provider and other energy services noted that, Africa has “No choice” but to deploy both conventional and renewable energy sources to electrify the continent if it is to achieve economic transformation.
“I don’t think we have another choice electrifying the continent given that more than 50 per cent of the continent’s population don’t have access to electricity.
“We need to take conventional sources such as oil, gas and coal, and add that to renewable sources. And we need to have policies in place that seek to drive renewable energy to compensate for the shortages we have.
Will Africa get to a point where it will rely only on renewable energy solutions, completely getting rid of fossils? Tinubu said, “I don’t think we will completely get rid of fossils, but the continent has more than 100 years of oil and 600 years of gas supply to power the continent and 400 years of coal. We need to take the benefit of global evolution.”
Rwanda’s push for renewable energy
Some people have complained of intermittent power supply and unscheduled load shedding, which they say hampers their business, through raising the cost of operations. The challenge emanates from insufficient power supply in the country that heavily relies on hydro-power generation by the government.
Few manufacturers produce energy to serve their power needs, a situation, experts say should end, encouraging firms particularly the big manufacturing plants to turn to renewable energy and stop reliance on national power grid.
It is from this background that the government rallies citizens to embrace renewable energy for industrial and homestead use.
Rwanda relies on hydro-power, which accounts for 97.37MW of electricity generated, while thermal energy contributes 51.7MW, and methane gas, 3.6MW. Solar energy use in Rwanda, as an alternative source of power, is still low at about 8.5MW, according to official figures.
The country presently has installed capacity of about 186MW of power, which the government targets to increase to at least 563MW by 2018 to make it possible to extend electricity to the majority of Rwandans.
The government plans to increase off-grid power generation to 22MW over the same period, up from 8.75MW presently, with solar energy generation as one of the main proposed renewable energy sources.
Therefore, by embracing renewable energy for industrial use, manufacturers will ensure a sustainable source of power that will enhance efficiency and reduce operational costs, according to experts.