Enel's Green Energy Helping African Development

Published on Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Africa needs energy to drive its development. The continent with the largest number of nations has a growing need of electricity both for its industry and the inhabitants of its large cities and villages. With energy demand rising, African authorities are launching new domestic energy programmes that aim to ensure energy security through a mix of economically and environmentally sustainable sources.

Amid the risk of blackouts and the lack of access to electricity, many African countries have put their focus on renewable energy, and in this new green gold rush, Enel is banking on its vast experience. The Group is playing a leading role in the development of renewable energy in countries like Egypt and South Africa, which will be important for the immediate future of nations that up until recently have been confined to the margins.

Egypt is part of Enel Green Power's development plan for 2014-2018. Due to its growing domestic energy demand and its more than 80 million inhabitants, it has had to divert an increasing amount of gas to its domestic market, and currently half of its daily production is used for electricity generation. This consumption explosion, the frequent summer blackouts and its transformation from gas exporter to importer have led Egypt to focus more on renewable energy. Drawing on its abundant wind and sun resources, it aims to generate 20 percent of its energy from green sources by 2020.

Enel is already operating in South Africa. In 2012 renewables accounted for less than one percent of the country's energy mix, but it is set on increasing the share of green energy to 12 percent by 2020. Despite the high installed capacity - 48 gigawatts mostly from coal power plants – the Rainbow nation has been undergoing an energy crisis that since 2007 has closely following its rise in consumption: in 2008 the grid almost collapsed and the state utility EKSOM had to ration its supplies to businesses and factories. Pretoria has almost been obliged to focus on renewable energy, and Enel was ready to step and help handle the situation. In May EGP grid-connected its first PV solar power plant (10 megawatt of capacity) close to the town of Upington in the province of Northern Cape, and it is about to begin construction of two wind farms (199MW) and four further PV solar ones (314MW), which are located around the country and set to be put into service between 2015 and 2017.

According to the International Energy Agencyaround 57 percent of African people lack access to electricity due to scarce infrastructure. This data highlights a long-standing problem on the continent, renewable energy is set to play an important role in resolving it. More than 80 percent of Africa receives up to 2,000 kilowatts of solar energy per square metre every hour. These plants only require a short construction period, can be located close to where the energy is consumed and they can feed micro-grids that make villages self-sufficient without needing to connect them to complex distribution networks. The TOB system created by Enel Research, which integrates 2.7 kW PV solar panel and batteries that last for six hours, generating clean energy in remote areas that lack access to electricity, is one example of how such a system can work.