Powering Africa – The Ideal Energy Mix

Access to suitable infrastructure remains the single biggest challenge in Africa, and right on top of the agenda are the generation, transmission and distribution systems needed to provide electricity to growing urban areas and outlying rural communities on the continent. 

Paul Grota, Director, Power, WSP Africa, estimates that sub-Saharan Africa requires about USD300 billion in investment over the next 15 years to develop outstanding electricity generation capacities, while remedying its backlog in transmission and distribution systems.

While this may seem an insurmountable challenge, we see a unique opportunity for Africa to explore new energy planning scenarios and technologies.

Accessing electricity supply models

African policymakers are already reassessing existing electricity supply models to help accelerate the rollout of this essential infrastructure. Countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa, are developing the blueprints for the future African energy landscape, and our experts have worked with both public and private sector organisations to provide market studies, gap analyses, efficiency reviews and feasibility studies.

“We have seen a significant investment and movement in Africa’s power sectors over the last decade. This is especially the case with regards to both refurbishment and new build coming through the pipeline. At present, there are many country-specific initiatives underway to improve power infrastructure,” says Grota.

Important reforms are also being undertaken to existing energy structures that pave the way forward for larger participation from private sector players in energy generation.

Sharing responsibility

Independent power producers (IPPs) are helping governments shoulder the immense responsibility of electrifying the continent. They bring access to capital and novel ways of financing energy generation projects, over-and-above the wealth of skills and technical abilities needed to execute these complex projects.

In many instances, their solutions are based on renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and small hydro, diversifying the overall energy mix and, therefore, complementing the critical sustainability agendas of governments.

Importantly, these solutions can be deployed quicker than the large base-load power plants being driven through the project pipeline from the early conceptual stages to their eventual commissioning by state-owned energy utilities.

Renewable energy in Southern Africa

South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) programme serves as a sound example. This is complemented by other similar initiatives, such as Kenya’s Lake Turkana wind project, JCM Greenquest Solar Corporation’s solar venture in Cameroon and Ethiopia’s extensive geothermal ambitions.

WSP Africa has played a leading role in South Africa’s REIPP programme. We were appointed by IPP BioTherm as the lenders technical advisor (LTA) to Nedbank and the Industrial Development Corporation for the Aries and Konkoonsies I solar facilities. We were also recently appointed the LTA for the same IPP’s Konkoosies II project and Aggeneys utility-scale solar power projects.