Africa’s power generation and energy sector is a catalyst for growth and development across the continent. Industry and businesses need to stay abreast of rapid advances in the energy landscape. There are several trends influencing the current evolution of power generation and energy distribution and these will be among a number of themes to be explored and unpacked at the Africa Energy Indaba 2019. This international conference and exhibition, bringing together leading African and global players in the energy sector, is taking place 19 and 20 February at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

Investments in low-carbon technologies

With environmental awareness on the rise, the world is accelerating towards increased investment in renewable energy. This shift, seeing more nations investing in cleaner, low-carbon technologies, became more marked following the 2015 COP 21 United Nations Climate Change Conference. The attractiveness of coal projects has declined worldwide. As renewable energy and low-carbon technologies become the norm, financing for coal projects is expected to become increasingly difficult to attract.

Renewable energy in developing markets

Countries such as Morocco and Senegal are increasingly supporting a move away from coal to more sustainable energy sources to drive power plants. Declining costs of renewable energy technologies using solar or wind power have made them more competitive and spurred increased use. Similarly, the shale gas revolution in the USA saw declining costs of gas, making gas power plants markedly more competitive compared to clean coal solutions.

Africa has access to vast natural resources such as solar and wind energy. In fact, Africa receives over two and a half times the sunlight that Germany – being a world leader in solar renewables – does. This indicates the enormous potential the continent has to use these renewable resources and supports cost-efficient renewable solutions. It is likely to reform the energy landscape in Africa. While the continent has previously trailed behind developed nations in adopting renewable energy, this will change as Africa’s interest in renewable energy increases.

Battery storage gains momentum

Developments in battery storage have received a lot of investment from global companies such as Tesla, Samsung, Total and BYD over the past five years. Further investment is expected, particularly in research and development for energy storage in solar photovoltaic plants. Declining costs of battery storage will further boost investments in this field.

Distributed generation solutions

The implementation of decentralised, distributed generation solutions would provide millions of people across the continent access to energy which they currently do not have.  Distributed generation entails establishing smaller power stations at particular load centres, as opposed to larger power utilities that have to transmit power over great distances.

According to Dr Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council, “Decentralised supply will add a lot of value to the supply picture. This does not mean, however, that we get rid of the central supply utilities, but rather have many complementary supply stations coming in at local level.”

Distributed generation also keeps transmission losses at a minimum and will enable transmission of power to where it is needed. Businesses and nations embracing and investing in the decentralisation of renewable energy open themselves up to significant opportunities.

Moving towards integrated grids

Integrated grids entail countries moving power from one country with a power surplus to one with a power deficit. “Regional integration is essential to ensure that resources get from locations where they are most affordable, to where they are needed,” explains Dr Frei.

In Africa, however, this is particularly challenging as the continent is divided into distinct power pools – the northern, southern, eastern, western, and central power pools – with minimal integration between them. Transmission projects required to link grids are expensive and the continent is currently slow on the uptake of this. Development in this area may take a decade or longer but investment in integration is essential and initiatives in this area are set to endure. 

For many, the political and economic climate in Africa has improved over the past 20 years, rendering the continent a viable investment destination for international stakeholders. With access to abundant natural energy resources for power generation (solar, hydro, wind and gas among others), the African energy sector is undergoing a positive transition.

Key speakers at the upcoming Africa Energy Indaba will include: Sean Cleary: Strategic Concepts; Dr Christoph Frei: World Energy Council; H.E. Dr Matar Al Neyadi: Ministry of Energy of the United Arab Emirates; H.E. Minister Jeff Radebe: Department of Energy, South Africa; Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki: NEPAD Agency; Amandou Hott: African Development Bank Group; along with many others.

For more information visit: http://www.africaenergyindaba.com

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