Technology and sources renew hope to end Africa energy woes
from SAVIOUS KWINIKA in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO– THE need to embrace new technology solutions and explore renewable sources of energy has been the prevailing theme at a major summit Mozambique is hosting on the back of countries in the region battling power challenges and the subsequent economic slowdown and receding employment opportunities.
Power utilities from a number of African countries battling energy crises, among them Lesotho, Malawi, host country Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, have met in the capital of Maputo to tackle the shortfalls.
The meeting, held under the auspices of the Southern African Development Energy and Infrastructure, is organised by EnergyNet and facilitated by African Forum for Utility Regulators (AFUR), comes at a time a significant number of companies in Sub-Saharan Africa have resorted retrenching workers, worsening an already dire unemployment situation.
Stakeholders have recommended the exploration of technology as well as tapping into the continent’s vast solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy sources to avoid power failures and thus enhance economic growth.
Most countries in the continent have these sources in abundance but are not fully exploited.
Officially opening the forum discussion in the coastal Mozambican city, AFUR Chairman, Benon Mutambi, said the continent urgently required a combination of intervention mechanisms to address current constraints and meet future needs.
He called on countries to embrace technology to harness the abundant renewable energy resources.
Mutambi pointed out some 620 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, out of over 970 million, do not have access to electricity.
According to the African Development Bank, the entire installed generation capacity of the 48 Sub-Saharan countries is a mere 68 gigawatts, (GW).
As much as one-quarter of that capacity is unavailable because of aging plants and poor maintenance.
In the region, just one person in five has access to electricity. If current trends continue, fewer than 40 percent of African countries will reach universal access to electricity by 2050.
“So, energy provision for all remains a key problem and challenge for millions of poor people in Africa, who often have a limited choice of technologies that convert energy into useful services,” said Mutambi.
He said the technologies currently available to the African population were inefficient or of low quality hence this conference to explore lasting solutions to energy crises.
The demand of energy in Africa is expected to surge to 6 percent annually, in stark contrast to the average generation of energy in the last 25 years, which stands at a paltry 1,4 percent.
Mutambi said Africa currently generates about 140 gigawatts (GW) of power production.
By 2040, the power production needed to provide adequate energy access and services is estimated to be 700 GW.
Speaking at the same platform as Mutambi, PriceWaterCoopers Advisory Services Executive, George Baecker, said new energy technologies such as PayG or pico-solar light, commonly known in Senegal and Mali as SunnyMoney energy solutions, were among the relevant technology interventions to address the power challenges.
Pico-solar light is a compact portable device that uses a photovoltaic panel to produce up to 10 watts of power, a solution useful for rural based communities.
Baecker said Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia had embraced the technology to ensure even rural people had access to the energy.
“Africa requires both mini-grids and stand alone energy solutions, otherwise time is running out,” he warned.
“It is high time people started embracing and deploying new technology solutions to avert acute power shortage that threaten our industries such as agriculture, health and banking, not to mention our homes,” said let alone our homes,” said Baecker.
He spoke glowing of solar energy.
“Solar lights represent a compelling alternative to kerosene, candles, or battery-powered torches in rural communities that lack access to a reliable energy grid,” he said.
He mentioned affordability and availability of the sun, the source of this energy, in many African countries.
The conference in Mozambique continues to Friday (tomorrow).
– CAJ News
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