Harnessing the Renewable Energy Potential in Africa

Power is amongst the vital infrastructure component that harnesses the growth of any country. With global transition in energy underway, Africa is no behind in adopting renewable as a source of power generation. Power has been always a problem for the African continent. 70% of the African population does not access to source of power due to which industries and manufacturing units struggle to produce business and progress.  According to African development Bank the industries and manufacturing units in Africa suffer 56 days of shut down time per year due to power cuts and outages at the substation.

With global economies shifting their focus towards renewable energy Africa still depends on Fossil fuels as a primary source for power generation. Africa’s current installed capacity is 147Gw which is equivalent to the total install capacity that china adds every one or two years. The continent’s power infrastructure is significantly underdeveloped whether we look at the installed capacity or the consumption levels.

According to the International Energy Agency Africa will require a potential investment of 30bn$ to attain 100% electricity access by 2030. The government has started taking progressive steps towards electrifying Africa; one of the initiatives worth mentioning is Power Africa. In 2013 Power Africa was launched by the former US president Mr Barack Obama with an aim to develop new power generation capacity and connect millions of households and businesses to on-grid and offgrid power across sub-Saharan Africa.

After three years of operations Power Africa has supported private companies and utilities in connecting 10.6mn households and facilitated the financial closure of 80 private sector transactions that generate more than 7,200 MW of power. Power Africa is now among the largest public-private partnerships for development in history, having mobilized more than $54 billion in commitments towards achieving Power Africa’s goals from its more than 140 public and private sector partners.

Along with undertaking developmental initiatives government has been shifting its focus towards making its power sector a lucrative investment hub for the international energy contractors in Africa.  Renewable energy contracts have been awarded to international EPC contractors to participate in the African power market. For instance,  A consortium featuring MAN Diesel & Turbo and Danish EPC-Specialist, BWSC, has won the contract to build the new 127 MW Maria Gleta power plant near the city of Cotonou, Benin. Similarly, ibvogt, German developer and EPC have won a contract to construct 166.5 MW solar farms in Egypt. Indian solar EPC firm Sterling and Wilson has won a contract to build 54.3 MW solar PV plant in Zambia.

The French renewable company Neoen will serve as Independent Power Producer (IPP) of the plant when it will be commissioned.  Andritz Hydro of Austria and Mota Engil of Portugal are currently completing their final designs and initiating procurement and manufacturing for the rehabilitation, upgrade, and modernization of the Nkula A hydropower plant that will increase the plant’s generation capacity from 24 MW to up to 36 MW, and provide a new station control system, a new 66 kV switchyard, and new transformers.

Moreover, government is extensively procuring energy equipments in order to meet its expanding demand for power. It has been calling for expression of interest in Renewable energy tenders for large projects. Government is extensively procuring services like transmission lines, photovoltaic rooftops, construction of water pumping system, Supply of Batteries for Solar Panels etc.

Potential Buyers  in power Sector in Africa  like Eskom Holdings, Energy Fund, Ministry Of Energy And Petroleum, The Tanzania Electric Supply etc are seeking EPC contracts for large renewable energy projects. In a bid to meet is goal of 100% access to electricity by 2030 PPA are inked with the international firms making their access to African market easy.

The Nigerian Bulk Trader signed power purchasing agreements (PPA) on 14 solar independent power projects (IPP) in July 2016. These solar IPPs, totaling 1,125 MW of generation capacity, are expected to attract more than $1.5 billion of combined domestic and foreign direct investment. Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) has inked a Shillings 24.2bn ($US 239m) deal with China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Company (CET) to electrify the Mombasa – Nairobi section of Kenya Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Though the continent faces power challenges these initiatives bring the momentum in change. Government has demonstrated the will to prioritize efforts and keep an eye on long –term improvisation of capabilities to create a thriving power industry and achieve its goal of universal access to electricity.


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