Our predictions for 2020 – Top African business executives

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2019 has been a fruitful year for the African power and energy sector, with multiple milestones documented. Some notable developments include Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Farm now connecting 310MW to the grid and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission issuing permits to Meter Asset Providers under new regulations aiming to close the metering gap.

Another achievement is that of the government of Mozambique along with partners securing funding for the Temane Regional Electricity Project. Such developments give confidence that the future is bright for this sector.

Dr Solomon Olufemi Ihidero
Senior Manager (Talent Management), Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, Nigeria

Indeed, 2019 is replete with major milestones in the African power and energy sector. Kenya’s recent launch of Africa’s largest wind power farm, located in Lake Tukana, with the capacity to generate 310MW of power to the country’s national grid, is an audacious and enviable initiative in Kenya’s trajectory to becoming a deserving global leader in renewable energy.

Nigeria, largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, with its vast resources in fossil fuel and renewable energy, received enormous support from Power Africa (a US-led government partnership) especially in the area of engaging the private sector to boost off-grid electricity for small businesses. In the same vein, Siemens’ partnership with Nigeria to help in achieving 7,000MW of reliable power supply by 2021 and 11,000MW by 2023, and its laudable humanitarian effort in Sudan, are pointers to a new era of growth and a future full of expanded possibilities for the nascent power and energy sector in Africa.

Perhaps, the Big Question is: Do African countries have the internal and local skill capacity to sustain and enhance the technical and operational efficiency of these and other remarkable power projects across the continent?

The message is a clarion call to governments and other partnering industry stakeholders for massive investment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to help build capabilities to support increased investment in the power industry. The TVET sub-sector should be given its rightful place and be adequately funded to serve as a credible and viable vehicle for responding to trends and developments in the current globally competitive world.

Well managed, TVET can become a veritable platform to engage and reduce the high level of unemployment amongst our teeming youths in Africa. More importantly, the eight centres of excellence in training for the power sector in Africa, as designated by the Association of Power Utilities of Africa and African Network of Centers of Excellence in Electricity (APUA-ANCEE), must tap into their experience and expertise to serve as the collective powerhouse that must build, lead, effect, and execute a sustainable and extensive TVET programme for the power and energy sector in Africa.

Neli Magubane
Chairperson, Matleng Energy Solutions, South Africa

There has been large-scale development in the energy sector in the continent in the past three years. This development augurs well in meeting the suppressed energy demand. It will also be incumbent upon the regulatory authorities to create an enabling environment for private sector participation in the state-owned utilities.

Most of the developments that have been observed are in the electricity generation sector. However, investments in the transmission and distribution sectors have been fairly muted. I expect more investments to be made in these two sectors in order to ensure that power is evacuated. The investments will also be in the ICT sector to ensure smarter grids that will be able to manage and evacuate undispatchable generation from wind and solar.

It is expected that, with the national utilities experiencing a ‘death spiral’ characterised by large unsustainable debt and inflexible cost structures, more public-private partnerships will be developed. South Africa will be procuring large battery storage in the next year. This will provide valuable lessons on the deployment and support of renewable energy using energy storage. In this regard, a decrease in the traditional baseload power is expected.

Energy storage development will also support minigrids. It is common cause that some of the areas will not be connected to traditional power grids. This means a localised energy solution will be more efficient and better placed to meet the local demand. It is my considered view that investments in both long transmission and distribution networks will still be required, while the deployment of mini-grids will be the new growth sector in energy solutions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) provides opportunities for energy providers to interact with their customers. ICT will be key in ensuring that customers who have rooftop solar installations are able to better manage their energy consumption and allow them to safely feed excess capacity to the grid. In this regard, more net metering or net billing solutions will be deployed.

To improve the sustainability of utilities, revenue enhancement can be achieved through the opportunities that are provided by the 4IR. This will include faster communication, smart grids, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and asset management regimes.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) for South Africa also provides much-needed addition to the generation fleet that will strengthen and provide adequate energy for the expected investments.

Eng. Wondimu Tekle Sigo
Former Ethiopian state minister, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy

The demands for electric power connectivity among African countries are increasing. However, in the East African Power Pool (EAPP), the interconnection of electricity is much less compared with the other pools in Africa.

I predict EAPP will have more electric power interconnection in addition to the existing Ethio-Sudan and Ethio-Djibouti transmission lines; namely, the transmission project EthioKenya 2,000MW. This transmission project started four years ago and will be completed and energised in 2020. I hope this transmission line in the same year 2020 will continue as committed to Tanzania with 1,300MW.

In general, the coming year looks positive as all ongoing and committed interconnection power infrastructures will be started. These will help to extend interconnection to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) for more power trade opportunities in both regions.

Specific to Ethiopia, the 100MW Assela wind farm financed by a Danish organisation will be started in 2020. Already the public-private partnership (PPP) proclamation has been put in place – a fundamental shift and very promising in Ethiopia – to develop the renewable energy potential. I predict that in 2020 a PPP will start construction of a project.

Musa Mukulu
Manager of Research and Business Development, Uganda Electricity Generation

Allow me to bring your attention to a notable African development in 2019. Uganda commissioned one of the largest hydropower stations in the country, namely Isimba Hydropower Station with a capacity of 183MW and downstream of the Bujagali Hydropower Station along the great River Nile.

In terms of predictions for 2020: Uganda will be commissioning another marvel; the Karuma 600MW Hydropower Station. The power plant is situated 60 metres underground and is close to the beautiful Murchison falls. With this increased power generation, there is a need to stimulate demand and consume all the generated power. The East African region could also benefit from this additional power via efforts from the East African Power Pool (EAPP).

•ESI