Renewable energy lights the way for Africa
Africa Oil Week (AOW) is proud to present this article from Africa Oil Week Gold sponsor, Fugro. The leading Geo-data specialist will be attending AOW - held in heart of Cape Town. Fugro will be well-represented at the event, as the headline sponsor of the Technical Stream and as an exhibitor.
While energy struggles are an ongoing global phenomenon – they are not felt equally by different countries and communities. Globally, approximately 13% of the population are without access to electricity. However in Africa, at present, that number rises to 43% – equating to 600 million people out of the total 1.4 billion population. The vast majority of those without access reside in the sub-Saharan countries of the continent.
Recently, the United Nations has estimated that Africa’s population is set to grow more thananywhere else in the world over the coming decades. From the current 1.4 billion to around 2.5 billion by 2050, the demand for energy in Africa is set to grow rapidly. Without significant practical improvements, the continent will miss the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving universal access to electricity by 2030.
Many African countries are experiencing recurrent electricity outages and load-shedding which have become the norm. These power outages, as well as sector bottlenecks have huge economic knock-on effects for businesses and individuals alike. The reason behind these outages can range from a lack of energy generated, to infrastructure failure or due to unauthorised strikes. Last year saw the most blackouts in South African history, overtaking 2020; and this year is set to beat the record again.
A Renewable Solution
While these struggles are acute and significant, the global energy economy through advancements in solar, hydro, bio-energy, geothermal and green hydrogen to power the energy development in Africa are showing great potential – particularly wind and solar energy. In fact, research conducted in 2020 by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, suggested that Africa’s natural wind resources had enough potential to power the continent’s energy demand 250 times over.
By focussing on renewable energy sources to fill the continent’s electricity gap, including from wind, there can be seen to be significant benefits. On top of the positive impact on the climate, both onshore and offshore wind are increasingly able to deliver power at a lower cost than traditional fossil fuel methods. Providing a more sustainable and less expensive solution to the energy gap.
However, Africa’s energy-mix will still need to rely on local resources such as natural gas to help bridge the gap during the transition towards renewable energy as the geographic area is too vast and there are too many countries, each with their own political structure, priorities, and financial capabilities. African countries account for just 3% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions to date, with the lowest emissions per capita of any region.
Providing Reliable Infrastructure
At the heart of providing reliable energy to all African nations, is the requirement for the necessary infrastructure to process, transport and distribute that generated energy. Ageing energy assets are a major concern; many structures have been poorly maintained over the years, have reached the end of their life (or exceeded it!) and now pose a serious safety risk. Going forward, sustainable infrastructure development is essential, and energy providers need to look to technology-based solutions to ensure efficient and safe operations.
For example, Fugro’s Roames virtual world asset management technology, which provides a precise 3D model of the network and advanced analytics. Enabling power companies to monitor and maintain their assets effectively and efficiently, helping to reduce the risk of power cuts, optimise performance and prioritise repair and maintenance.
In order to take these steps in the right direction, and for governments across the continent to effectively tackle the responsibility of providing access to reliable and affordable power, they need to address investment, regulatory frameworks, clear policy and effective asset management. As the energy deficit is of such large proportions, success is also largely reliant on constructive partnerships between governments, the private sector and technology providers. With proper strategies in place and the right technical support, nation states can unlock vast amounts of potential from their natural resources and accelerate Africa’s (and the world’s) ongoing transition to a sustainable energy future.