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Africa’s power sector seeks sustainable growth drivers

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Africa’s leading power generation and distribution stakeholders are set to converge in Sandton later this year, for talks on creating power for sustainable growth in Africa.
With effective power generation and distribution having been identified as a critical component of Africa’s economic growth, sector stakeholders will participate in the Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa conference and exhibition at the Sandton Convention Centre in July this year to address the challenges, strategies and technologies needed to fast-track power provision across the continent.
International event organiser PennWell has released the conference agenda, which was compiled in consultation with expert advisory boards and leading industry bodies in South Africa and across Africa. Keynotes to be delivered during the three days of the event will include Energy Models for Africa, Financing Renewable Energy Projects, Managing Ageing Assets and Renewable Integration. A dedicated nuclear energy session will also be staged.
“These issues have been identified as those most pertinent to Africa’s power sector today,” explains event director Feraye Gurel.
SAIEE past president and consultant Mike Cary says there has been significant growth in interest in clean and alternative energy sources in the past few years. However, there is also a great deal of misinformation on these subjects on the part of politicians, environmentalists and members of the public, he notes. Cary hopes that platforms such as Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa will go some way toward clearing up misconceptions.
Chris Edeh, Director of Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa 2016 supporting association African Sustainable Energy Association (AFSEA), says AFSEA, with representation in around 18 countries in Africa, sees the event as a good opportunity to engage with African policymakers. “It is typically difficult to access the right government decision-makers to discuss policies that support the advancement of renewable energy programmes,” he says.
“Events like Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa are practically the only places where you can get many policy makers under one roof, in the right state of mind to talk about renewables.”
Edeh notes that renewable energy, mainly solar, wind and hydro, is gaining traction in a number of African countries. “In South Africa, more than 3000kW of renewable energy is already being produced, in Kenya it is over 1500kW, and projects are being rolled out in Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda and Nigeria. However, there are challenges in the way of Africa realising the full potential of renewables – these include policy and regulation, access to funding, and access to data to support new projects,” he says.
“Africa must overcome these challenges and learn from what Europe has done. In Europe, some countries are running on 30 to 50% renewable energy, and they don’t even have the kind of resources we have in Africa. Renewables are the way to go for Africa.”
Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa, which initially focused heavily on South Africa, has stepped up its pan-African focus in recent years.
Sisa Njikelana, former MP, chair of South African Independent Power Producers Association (Saippa) and member of the event advisory board, notes that it is important for events such as Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa to consider power challenges and seek solutions from a pan-African perspective. “Uneven development among African countries is not in the interests of any of those countries,” he says. “Collaboration is already taking place in the form of bodies such as the Southern African Power Pool, and increased intra-African infrastructure development and trade, but increased collaboration would be beneficial.
“The planned BOSA power transmission interconnector project between South Africa and Botswana, opportunities for further exploitation of gas and coal reserves in various countries and the potential for countries such and Namibia and Botswana to capitalise on their solar potential to meet cross-border demand are examples of initiatives that would benefit the region as a whole.”
Platforms such as Power-Gen and DistribuTech Africa help support this development by bringing leading players from across the continent together to share experiences and cross pollinate ideas, which reinforces each country’s own efforts as well as regional efforts. There is also the potential for delegates to take knowledge back to their countries to share it at the highest level, to improve their national programmes.”
Because power challenges cannot be seen in regional isolation, PennWell says, greater pan-African participation has been encouraged by engaging more pan-African power stakeholders in the event advisory boards by inviting a delegation party of over 50 sub-Saharan African VIPs from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, among others to attend as guests and participate in scheduled B2B matchmaking sessions with potential business partners and suppliers.
The event is endorsed and under CPD validation (number SAIEE-1496-V) by the South African Institute of Electrical Engineers enabling delegates to earn up to 2.5 CPD points over the course of three days.