What’s in Store for Africa and Renewable Energy

Energy storage is key for renewable energy as a viable part of its energy mix in Africa.
Published: Mon 16 Jun 2014

At African Utility Week 2014, Andrew Jones, Managing Director at S&C Electric Company, explains the education needs of the energy industry, and shares current energy storage developments in Africa.

Energy Education is Key

According to Jones, there is need for people to understand the value of energy storage solutions in Africa. He adds that the conference, which is highly technical and provides information from other projects and regions around the globe, provides great content and information for application in the continent. “It would be a shame for Africa to not take what’s been learned elsewhere,” says Jones.

He explains that the benefits of storage, as well as the value it brings to Africa’s communities and cities, should be shared at university level. This would counteract the idea that energy storage is too expensive.

In a place such as Africa, where there is a need to for electricity access in remote areas, energy storage and distribution is vital.

For example, the South African National Energy Regulator (NERSA) launched an education program to get people into the regulation industry and create qualifications for graduates to learn about the regulatory system. Jones says that it is programs like these that will create acceptance for energy storage solutions and educate more people on the viability of renewable energy.

Energy Storage Developments in Africa

Beyond education, S&C is looking at energy storage investments, projects and potential business models to implement throughout Africa. South Africa is a good example of this since talent is already a ‘stand out’ attribute.

To this end, S&C are currently exploring a project that looks to combine energy storage with photovoltaics in a region within South Africa. This would be beneficial, and cost-effective, in areas where there are winter peaks, and other seasonal changes, which affect electricity demand. This actually becomes more cost-effective than the rate to pay with concentrated solar power in this situation.

Another project is taking place in a village in Senegal which is without electricity. This project installs 25KW of photovoltaic panels with energy storage to keep the town supplied with electricity every day. For storage, it uses lithium-ion batteries, which are more tolerant in the hot temperatures as well as being more cost-effective. This increases the life and value of the project.

Jones also adds that Africa has an interesting challenge from a diesel perspective, and adds that there is clearly a case for diesel abatement particularly in mining. Jones states, “More and more, [the] mining industry is looking for energy security, and they see that in energy storage solutions.”

From a utility perspective, this could be seen as a negative impact on revenue. However, in places where they need to connect these grids, it costs more than what they would make says Jones. In the long run, it would actually be more cost-effective for the mines to become more self-sufficient and it would help balance the systems in Africa.

Africa’s Energy Storage Future

Jones concluded that there is still a large knowledge gap concerning Energy Storage in Africa. Efforts should be made to educate the younger generation of engineers on the benefits of implementing storage. Once this has been achieved, both security and supply issues will be less prevalent, and most importantly, access to safe and reliable electricity will be extended to millions of people in Africa.