In a live studio interview at African Utility Week, David Walker, CEO of DNV GL, talks about the challenges surrounding renewables development and integration and how African countries can resolve their energy problems by sharing resources.
Overcoming renewable integration challenges
During the interview, Walker discusses the challenges of building a transmission line to connect renewable sources which are often located in remote areas. For instance, disputes over land rights could lead to a delay in the processing of development permits, thereby slowing down grid expansion plans.
There are also technical challenges due to ageing infrastructure, as well as intermittency of renewables. Most of these challenges can be overcome with sufficient investment and the adoption of good processes. Today, renewables are not being viewed as intermittent any longer since technology now helps utilities to predict sources of energy from wind and the sun more accurately. This helps utilities to make more informed decisions when it comes to generating back-up capacity to support renewables.
Skills surrounding the development and maintenance of renewable energy is still lacking, specifically the commercial aspect and parts manufacturing. There are still a number of people employed in the coal industry and there is an opportunity for these skills to be transferred to the renewables sector.
To help Independent Power Producers to reduce their operational costs, Walker suggests more focus on forecasting when it comes to renewables in order to optimise output. They can also improve their operations and maintenance process by employing and developing the appropriate skills and improving economies of scale by investing in a number of different products.
Interconnecting grids may resolve political issues
Lastly, Walker suggests that in order for African countries to tap into the vast natural renewable sources of power, countries should look outside their own borders and share resources by interconnecting grids. Through the right political will, this will eventually happen, says Walker. He concludes by saying that interconnections will probably also serve to reduce political problems between countries.