Africa Can Get Its Electricity Faster

Fast tracking energy into Africa could be the answer to the continent’s extremely low access to grid power.
Published: Wed 16 Jul 2014

APR Energy is in the business of providing power quickly. Last year, the company delivered 450MW to Libya in120 days-this is from contract signature to the generation of the full capacity. “This is what we mean by fast-tracking energy into Africa,” explains John Campion, CEO of APR Energy who spoke to us at the Africa Energy Forum.

Solving many problems

Typically, traditional plants take three to five years to build due to various processes such as bid opening and selection, financial closure, and selection of contractors. It then takes around three years before a shovel is put into the ground and then another two to three years before the plant is commissioned, explains Campion.

He says that within the Request for Proposal timeline, APR Energy is able to get a very large power plant up and running. He explains, “We can go from a bridging solution to a definitive solution in a very short period of time.”

APR Energy is deploying dual fuel gas turbines which are in the 25-30MW range. This is in association with their partner, General Electric which assists with the mobile gas turbine business. APR has an exclusive contract with General Electric for the provision of this technology into the fast track rental market. This gives APR Energy the capability to move the equipment very fast and have it up and running which can transition into a definitive solution, says Campion.

The turbines are air derivative and dual fuel and can fire liquid, diesel and natural gas. “That will solve a number of problems very quickly in a lot of these markets,” says Campion.

APR Energy carries out a two-step process when it comes to the bidding process. The company can provide the power for that period until the definitive comes on line. While APR does this, they also bid that definitive at the end of the day.

Temporary power-a misnomer

Temporary power is often misunderstood and its value often undermined. Campion says that APR Energy’s processes and technology is completely sustainable. He explains, “The engines have a 30 year life span and the technology we use for our gas turbines is the same used for aeroplanes. Therefore, engines are highly reliable and fuel efficient and fast for implementation in setting up and commissioning and putting into operation.”

Campion also points out that gas turbines can be used to improve the reliability of power supplies. He says, “The Intermittency of solar and wind creates a gap and storage is currently not very economically viable. Therefore, the creation of a base load using gas or even clean coal is very important.”

Natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels and is mostly indigenous to Africa. Therefore, there is no need to import costly gas supplies.

Campion points out that the balance must be right-a good mix of fuels is critical. APR Energy is currently looking into bundled hybrid solutions which would serve to enhance power reliability.

Campion says in conclusion, “Economies are tied to reliable electricity. The most expensive electricity you can have is the one you don’t have because economies need power to grow.”