24 Sep

Investment in renewable energy sector continues to power forward

Africa’s grid-connected electricity deficit coupled with its wealth of renewable resources, like sunshine, make it an attractive destination for energy investors. Africa Private Equity News, an industry information service, reports ongoing investment and strong deal activity in the continent’s power sector in August 2018.

“As both GDP growth and urbanisation in African continue to rise, the demand for power on the continent will increase exponentially. Renewable power will continue to make up the bulk of the new supply, in particular as: costs continue to drop; battery storage technology becomes more efficient allowing renewable sources to provide baseload supply; and renewable projects allow for the flexibility of multiple smaller projects in isolated regions or on mini-grids,” Andre Wepener, head of the power and infrastructure finance team at Investec, told Africa Oil & Power in an interview.

African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), an infrastructure-focused private equity fund and part of Old Mutual Alternative Investments, through its IDEAS Managed Fund, has acquired stakes in nine new solar and wind power plants in South Africa. When all these facilities are fully operational, expected at the end of 2020, they will provide an additional 800 MW of renewable energy capacity into the national power grid. “We are looking at almost R9 billion (US$611 million) in total capital expenditure across these power projects,” said Sean Friend, investment director at AIIM.

In another notable South African power deal, Vantage GreenX Fund Managers announced that through its second renewable energy fund, Vantage GreenX Note II, it has provided R2.05 billion ($139 million) of funding to a combination of six solar and wind energy projects with a combined capacity of 433 MW. Furthermore, Globeleq, an independent power producer, acquired Brookfield Asset Management’s South African renewable energy interests. The agreement will give Globeleq a majority shareholding in six projects totalling 178 MW.

In Senegal, a recent financing deal has cleared the way for progress on the Taiba Ndiaye wind power development. The project reached financial close on 30 July, with construction scheduled to begin in the near future. Operated by London-headquartered Lekela – a joint venture between Irish renewable energy company Mainstream and private equity investor Actis – and sponsored by French developer Sarréole, the site, when completed, will generate 158 MW.

Read more here: How We Made It in Africa

26 Sep

The growing importance of renewable power in Africa

To fuel economic growth and support its growing population, Africa needs power. Renewable energy technologies and distributed infrastructure are playing an increasingly important role in the continent’s energy mix.

Around the world, 1.2 billion people live without access to electricity. Half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa trails the rest of the world in terms of access to electricity by a huge margin. In 2014, less than half the population of the continent had electrical power. Everywhere else, the equivalent figure has now passed 90%. If the region is to continue the strong pace of economic growth it has achieved since the end of the 1990s, better access to energy, especially electrical power, will be essential.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects demand for electricity in sub-Saharan Africa to rise considerably faster than the region’s GDP growth for at least the next 25 years. Fulfilling that demand will require electricity production in the region to increase by a factor of more than three by 2040 to 1,300 terawatt hours.

Africa’s energy challenge isn’t all about resources. The continent has plenty of coal, gas and oil, for example. What it lacks is generation capacity and, just as importantly, the transmission and distribution infrastructure to deliver that power to the homes and businesses where it is needed most. Progress in building that infrastructure has been painfully slow. Between 1990 and 2010, the fraction of the region’s population with access to electricity increased by only 0.2 percentage points a year, as new energy investments struggled to keep up with overall population growth.

A brighter outlook

Over the past seven years, Africa’s electrification rate has accelerated to around 1 percentage point a year. That’s a fivefold increase in the share of the population that gains access to electricity every year. But it still isn’t fast enough. Analysts at McKinsey & Company estimate that electrification rates on the continent will only reach 70 or 80% by 2040, noting that an electrification rate of less than 80% is almost universally associated with low per capita GDP and widespread poverty.

There’s growing consensus that, to make better progress toward full electrification, Africa will need a different approach. The continent’s phone systems provide a model. While older economies built centralised fixed line telephone networks first, Africa largely skipped that step with the rapid deployment of mobile telephone infrastructure, driven by entrepreneurial private sector companies. Africa’s energy networks may develop in a similar way, with renewable sources playing a leading role.

Energy infrastructure projects are often big, expensive and technically complex. Building them is usually the domain of large, international companies. In Africa, which has few local large-scale engineering companies, that is especially the case. Many of the world’s largest energy players have been involved in African energy investments over the years, but most recently it is contractors from China that have transformed the pattern of energy development on the continent.

China’s involvement in Africa is a core part of Beijing’s “Going Abroad” policy, which was first introduced in the country’s 10th Five-Year Plan in 2001. The motivation for the policy is simple and logical. Closer relationships with developing economies in Africa and elsewhere help develop new markets for Chinese goods and services overseas, and secure access to important commodities needed to fuel the economy at home.

IEA analysis suggests that Chinese firms were responsible for 30% of the utility-scale new power generation capacity built in sub-Saharan Africa between 2010 and 2015. Between 2010 and 2020 Chinese contractors are expected to install around 28,000 kilometres of new electricity transmission and distribution lines.

Chinese companies have been pragmatic in their choice of power technologies, building generation capacity to suit the fuel types available locally. The projects analysed by the IEA in its 2016 report include coal, gas, wind and hydroelectric power, as well as biomass and waste-to-energy facilities. Overall, however, the share of renewable energy technologies is significant, as engineering firms export technology and knowhow resulting from the huge investments in domestic renewable capacity that China has made in recent years.

Read more: How We Made It in Africa

29 Aug

‘Solar key to sustainable energy supply in Nigeria,’ says report

solar

In the oil-soaked West African nation of 187 million people, solar is slowly infiltrating every part of society in Nigeria. It is awakening entrepreneurial instincts, giving life to innovative payment models, and promising to restore at least some faith in the government’s ability to bring electricity to citizens used to frequent blackouts or no power at all.

A recent report produced by Power Nigeria, which is taking place from 5-7 September at the Landmark Centre in Lagos, highlighted the need for additional solar capacity in the country and what challenges the country faces to achieve this.

In 2017, financial closure is expected on at least some of the 14 solar plant projects announced in July 2016. If successful, they’ll bring a total of 1.2GW to Nigeria, largely in the north, far from most conventional generation capacity.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and has power capacity of roughly 5GW (at peak in February 2016), but dropped to less than half that in January 2017.

Half of Nigerians have no access to grid-based electricity. About 40% of Nigerian grid-powered businesses use supplemental energy. The rule of thumb is 1GW is needed per million people, in a fully developed economy. That means Nigeria has a 181GW deficit. The 1.2GW of solar doesn’t make a dent.

Yet Nigeria aims for renewables to supply 30% of output by 2030. The social consideration is significant in a country suffering terrorist violence in the north, energy vandalism in the south, and poverty levels of 70%. One business solution is to initially provide smart metres only to those who pay bills, and use that revenue to build the infrastructure and subsidise other end-users. Instead, there is a push to get everyone a smart meter at once.

Despite the push for utility-scale solar, much of Nigeria’s solar power may start off-grid. As Nigeria’s growing community of solar PV entrepreneurs will tell you, anyone with a diesel or petrol generator is a potential solar client. In 2016, Nigeria imported US$23m worth of solar panels, not including integrated or plug-and-play solar kits. That makes Nigeria the world’s second largest solar panel importer among emerging economies, behind India, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Most of those panels weren’t meant for utility-scale projects. Nigerians have long sought out their own electricity sources, but for most, solar is not an obvious solution. It’s deemed expensive, they can be serviced poorly, and public awareness is low.

To help tackle these issues and bring the discussion of solar to the forefront, the Power Agenda conference at Power Nigeria will dedicate a day of discussion to different aspects of the solar chain. Verticals such as rural, urban and hybrid solar will be covered, as well as a session on supporting solar in Nigeria and how pay-as-you-go and mobile payment systems are changing the power business model.

Some of the key speakers on the day are: Olu Ogunlela, co-Founder, Gridless Africa; Tinyan Ogiehor, technical advisor (Solar PV), Solar Nigeria Programme (UK DFID programme); Suleiman Yusuf, CEO, Blue Camel Energy; Ifeanyi Odoh, regional sales manager – solar business, Schneider Electric; and Wale Rafael Yusuff, head of sales – Nigeria, Clarke Energy.

The 2017 edition of Power Nigeria will be the largest to date and is set to attract over 100 exhibitors from 11 countries, offering visitors a first look of some of the latest products available on the market covering a range of products relating to power generation, transmission and distribution. This year, there has also been a significant increase in country pavilions from one to three with representation from Turkey, China and India.

Some of the standout exhibitors this year include Cummins, Polycab, GWB Energy, Schneider Electric, Sterling & Wilson and Skipper Seil.

Power Nigeria draws on the strengths of Informa Industrial Group’s geographical foothold in the Middle East and Africa through its partner events Electricx and Solar-Tec in Cairo, and Middle East Electricity in Dubai, which holds the title of world’s largest power event.

Power Nigeria will take place at a new purpose built exhibition venue in Lagos – Landmark Centre, Nigeria from the 5-7 September 2017. Visitor pre-registration can be done online at www.power-nigeria.com

 

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