Enel and Africa Green Energy

Published on Friday, 10 April 2015

'Only' 10MW are online, but 500MW are already under construction and 4,500MW are in the pipeline, showing that Enel's renewable energy in South Africa is growing. And this expansion of the Group's renewable technologies - wind and solar power - in the 'Rainbow country' is rapid and effective, considering that EGP's first solar PV plant in this country was grid-connected less than a year ago at Upington.

All African countries need energy and Enel Green Power's presence in this continent is replicating the successful business model it has implemented across the world, based on geographic and technological diversification. In fact, besides the South African solar and wind power plants – of which one is already online and the others are under construction - EGP is also present in Egypt, Kenya, Morocco and Namibia and is studying how to operate on these markets, also planning to open other technological chains, such as geothermal power.

Renewable sources in Africa can count not only on abundant raw material, with strong winds and high solar exposure of the sites, but also on the large spaces where solar PV fields and wind farms can be built. And the mere comparison between mature markets such as the European ones and expanding ones like those of African countries highlights the development margins: the three Aurora, Paleisheuwel and Tom Burke solar PV plants, which EGP started building in March in South Africa, account for an installed capacity of 231MW. On the other hand, a mature market like Italy has increased its solar PV installed capacity by 385MW in the whole of 2014 with the 50,571 plants that were built. The comparison between these two data shows the potential of renewable sources in Africa and how they can meet energy needs through large plants that are no longer conceivable for instance in Europe, but also through medium- and small-sized green distributed generation technologies.

The example of telecommunications helps to understand how renewable energy can follow an alternative development path in this continent. Lacking adequate TLC infrastructures, Africa has actually made up for a decade-long gap thanks to mobile technology, which has allowed its countries to skip the fixed network stage – inexistent or highly deficient – and directly enter the world of new telecommunications, thus filling up the gap. Likewise, renewables can play the role for energy that mobile technology played for telecommunications. Thus, the serious distribution network deficit can be solved by micro-grids and distributed generation, without forcing these countries to totally depend on large generation plants. They can therefore make the most of their green sources, with plants that are more affordable than traditional ones, even when they are solar fields and wind farms, and can also be very small in order to be used for self-consumption by single customers, rural areas or villages.