Network Interconnection in Africa is Critical to Transmission Development

Electricity transmission and interconnectivity between countries is one of Africa’s major power trends.
Published: Wed 13 Aug 2014

 

Transmission is a key-enabler particularly in Africa as it allows countries, with different natural resources, to interconnect and develop their electricity sectors. This is according to Andrea Meola, Executive Business Development Director, Centro Elettrotecnico Sperimentale Italiano (CESI), who spoke to Engerati at the Africa Energy Forum. CESI is an independent center of expertise and a global provider of technical and engineering services to customers throughout the energy value chain.

Meola explains that the Ethiopia-Kenya interconnection development, for instance, is a key transmission development for Africa. Ethiopia hosts rich natural resources which can be used to satisfy its own electricity demand and at the same time, sell excess power to Kenya which has less natural energy resources. He says, “Kenya is definitely a key off-taker for Ethiopia.There is a sound business case for transmission development between these two countries.”

Energy subsidies-Africa’s key challenge

While there is a common energy development agreement between the Kenya and Ethiopia, the project won’t be altogether successful at a political level as transmission can compensate for the significant price differentiation between countries, says Meola, “In countries where you have open market opportunities, subsidized energy does not exist. When the price for the final customer is highly subsidized, it is more difficult to justify such a large investment. This is why subsidies around the world are beginning to erode.”

This is the key challenge for Africa, explains Meola. The more the subsidies are reduced or eliminated, the more the infrastructure will be developed.

Africa needs energy interconnection innovation

Africa needs innovative solutions when it comes to interconnecting countries since each country has something different to offer as far as resources and infrastructure is concerned.

The Ethiopia-Kenya interconnection is using the new HVDC-Voltage Source Converter solution, a first for interconnections of this kind in Africa. The two countries are in the process of developing new ways of operating the system and new skills are being developed. This is a great opportunity for other African countries to watch and learn from this new solution and development, says Meola.

Another area requiring innovativeness is the interconnection of isolated networks on the continent as most of these communities are still using costly diesel generators for power. Meola says, “We are in discussion with several African countries to find a solution to start connecting these isolated networks since these communities are growing and people are demanding a more reliable and cost-effective source of power.” However, this is not easy since each region is unique as each one has different resources to offer and needs.