The shift to green and renewable energy is so important, particularly for Africa.

David Bian, director of Huawei Digital Power Sub-Saharan Africa, Smart PV Development Department, outlined why in a presentation to last week’s Solar and Storage Live exhibition: “Today, we still live in an era of carbon-based energy. In the short term, we will face the consequences of carbon emissions. And in the long term, we will face the risk of carbon resources exhaustion. The energy transition is therefore vital to the long-term development of human civilisation.”

Bian pointed out that Huawei Digital Power believes that there are four key pathways to achieving the energy transition: decarbonisation, electrification, digitalisation, and intelligence. When decarbonising the energy sector, he added, renewable energy will be critical. More particularly, the world will need to significantly ramp up renewable installation and generation.

“Last year, renewable energy accounted for about 28% of global electricity generation,” he said. “To achieve carbon neutrality, the proportion will have to reach 91% by 2050.”

Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in particular will play a crucial role in achieving this. As Bian pointed out, the total global installed solar PV capacity increased by 24GW in 2023 and is only set to keep growing. But for solar PV to be truly effective, complementary technologies such as battery storage will also be critical.

The rise of renewables will also enable the electrification of traditionally carbon-intensive industries such as agriculture, transport, and mining, helping bring down their carbon footprints. If things like tractors and trucks running on renewably produced electricity and petrol or diesel-powered generators can be replaced with clean alternatives, that will have a positive environmental impact.

“Electrification on the energy consumption side means that electricity will be the main energy consumed in the future,” he said. “To achieve carbon neutrality, this type of electricity consumption needs to rise from 22% to 50% by 2030.”

Bian further pointed out that the growth of electric vehicles illustrates how rapid this transition will be.

“The National Renewable Energy Agency estimated that the number of electric vehicles worldwide will grow from 30-million at the end of last year to more 2,18-billion by 2050,” he said.

Digitalisation and intelligence, meanwhile, have the potential to make the transition to a carbon-neutral future faster and more efficient. Technologies such as 5G, AI, cloud, and blockchain keep evolving and are penetrating every part of our economy and civilisation.

“Digital technologies not only help us to improve efficiency but also to build a foundation and a platform for innovation,” Bian said. “As for the intelligence, chat GPT has triggered a revolution for computing power. The demand for intelligent computing is increasing rapidly, with AI computing power set to increase 500 times by 2030.”

This, he added will have a significant impact on both traditional and renewable power production.

“Intelligence will help to reduce the operating expenditure for traditional energy supply,” he said. “For renewable energy sources such as PV and wind power, intelligence will not only simplify things for OEMs, but also improve consumption, safety, and power generation.”

In recent years, Huawei has put forward the integration of “4Ts”. That is: bit, watt, heat management, and battery energy storage management. Huawei integrates digital and power electronics technologies and combines data and energy flows at the technology, product, and solution levels. For core technologies and products, it delivers safe, efficient, green, and intelligent solutions for five fields, that is, green power generation, energy internet, mobility electrification, green ICT power infrastructure, and integrated smart energy.

Huawei’s 4Ts digital power technology is committed to building three new power systems: clean energy bases, urban energy systems, and home energy management systems.

In clean energy base scenarios, high proportions of renewable energy and power electronics applications, large base footprints, and remote locations pose challenges to grid connection and O&M. To overcome these challenges, Huawei Digital Power leverages the grid forming technology, which is applied to PV and energy storage systems (ESSs).

By integrating digital and power electronics technologies, together with advanced grid connection technologies, the PV+ESS solution can proactively enhance the power grid and provide the functions of traditional synchronous generators, achieving the transformation from grid following to grid forming and making PV energy the mainstream energy source. In terms of O&M, Huawei Digital Power leverages IoT, big data, AI, and other ICTs to implement the smart diagnosis of plant faults, achieving intelligent and unattended PV plants.

Bian also shared the best practices to see how the four technologies promote renewable energy development and the building of a new power system for a better, greener future.

Huawei’s intelligent PV + ESS generator technology is based on the intelligent string controller and intelligent string energy storage. It uses the Grid Forming technology to stably connect to the grid under a high proportion of renewable energy. The technology was verified in the world’s first GW-level optical storage grid project, the 1.3GWh microgrid project of Neom New Town, supporting Saudi Arabia to build the world’s first 100% renewable-powered city.

According to Bian, these converging forces could have an especially profound effect on Africa, particularly as the digital and energy worlds become even more deeply integrated. Huawei’s projects on the continent provide an idea of how committed to ensuring that Africa has a green and bright future.

“In utilities, we helped build the largest solar plant in Africa, a 540 MW installation in South Africa’s Northern Cape,” he said. “We supplied the inverters and transformers. Our 2 000 inverters were able to extrude with great efficiency and ensure that the plant achieved full stability in just three months.”

He further pointed to an energy storage project for a solar-hydro hybrid ESS in Ghana, which has helped that country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 47 000 tons annually. Huawei has also built a microgrid at a major Cape Town-based fresh produce market to ensure that it has continuous power.

“This has saved them around US$81 000 per year in fuel costs, with the return on investment is just 3.7 years,” said Bian.

The work Huawei has done elsewhere also shows what will be possible for Africa in the near future. In China’s Qinghai Province, for example, Huawei helped China National Power Investment Group build the world’s largest PV power plant with a capacity of 2.2 GW, which can produce more than 4 billion kilowatt-hours of green electricity every year. The intelligent I-V curve diagnosis technology shortens the inspection time from five months to 15 minutes. The detection accuracy, identification rate, and reproduction rate exceed 90%. This greatly reduces O&M costs and ensures the efficient operation of PV plants.

Huawei Digital Power focuses on security, quality, service, and technology. It uses leading technologies to ensure system security, provide high-quality products and services, and continuously innovate to lead the industry.

“Our solutions have generated 997 billion kilowatts of green power, saved 46-billion kilowatts of energy, and reduced emissions by 495-million tons, equivalent to planting 680-million trees,” Bian concluded. “So, today, while we have a great responsibility on our shoulders, let’s work together to build a new power system for a better, greener Africa.”