Clean Energy Microgrids - The Future for Africa’s Mines

Africa’s mining industry turns to renewable-powered microgrids to reach their energy independence goals.
Published: Wed 03 Jun 2015

A whole host of issues contribute to mining houses wanting to become more power independent, according to Charles Siwawa, CEO, Botswana Chamber of Mines. In a live studio interview with Engerati at African Utility Week, he explained why the mining industry is turning towards microgrids for reliable (and clean) sources of energy.

Mines work towards power independence

Mines are often located in remote areas far from the central grid and if they are connected, the grid is often unstable which poses a major problem since these large consumers require an uninterrupted supply of power.

Siwawa points out that the search for a reliable energy supply can be costly. The appropriate expertise required to set this up, as well as fluctuating diesel prices can really hurt a mine’s bottom line. Although now with diesel prices coming down, diesel powered microgrids are becoming a reality.

When asked about renewable powered microgrids, he says that a number of mines are already using solar during the day and diesel at night but that more mines will be keen to use more renewable power as soon as storage capacity comes in cheaper than what is used currently. Siwawa says that the mining industry is also keeping a close eye on the development of clean coal technology.

Utilities must adapt

It would be wrong to say that utilities are not nervous about the mining industry moving away from central grid power, explains Siwawa. The mining industry is a big energy consumer-it can consume up to 50% of a country’s total supply. It would therefore make sense that utilities hold onto these consumers by changing their strategy and adapting to market needs.

Says Siwawa: “Utilities should take up the opportunity and cater for this large consumer. The time has come to shift away from traditional methods of generating power and move towards cleaner technologies. The world is talking about climate change so utility providers have to change the way they produce energy. I bet that in 10 to 15 years, communities will not be happy with dirty fuels. Clean energy microgrids will most certainly be the future for the mining industry.”