The green energy wave in Africa

Published on Friday, 28 October 2016

At a conference organised by Res4Africa, experts discussed the potential of renewable energy to promote the continent’s economic and population growth.

While "mature" countries may be reducing their power consumption (thanks also to the spread of efficient practices), developing areas continue to have a great need for energy in order to sustain their rapid economic and population growths. Utilities have therefore begun to shift their focus to geographical territories that until recently were known more for their raw materials exports, than as actual electricity markets. Among these territories is Africa, a continent that is experiencing a profound transformation. Over the last decade, the continent recorded a consumption growth that is higher than that of India and Brazil, resulting in what is one of the world’s highest increase in productivity and return on investment. Renewable energy sources constitute the ideal solution to support this development, in that they are able to provide zero-emission electricity, both rapidly and at competitive costs.

This process affects and involves several players, notably utilities, technology providers, academia and consulting firms, all of which gathered in Nairobi (Kenya) to discuss these issues at the international conference A step change in the deployment of Renewables Energy in Eastern Africa. The event was organised by Res4Africa, a platform for dialogue among the various stakeholders, which began as a spin-off project of the association RES4MED and whose mission is to promote the diffusion of renewables and energy efficiency solutions in Africa, as well as their integration into regional markets to meet local energy needs.

Among the speakers was the president of Res4Africa and Enel Green Power CEO, Francesco Venturini. The CEO explained that factors such as the reduction of costs of new technologies and an increased governmental focus on the promotion of renewables, are contributing to the spread of solutions that aim to produce energy in a sustainable manner, both from an economic and environmental point of view.

"Africa is still highly dependent on hydrocarbons as an energy source, but despite the availability of these resources, production levels are still far below their potential. The development of renewable energy technologies allows us to bring electricity to areas that still lack access, with even small to medium-sized investments", explained Venturini, highlighting that the decision to present Res4Africa in Nairobi was no coincidence. "We would like to extend this initiative to several countries and Kenya is one in which we will focus many of our initial activities, because the business climate, opportunities and regulatory policies here are among the most advanced at a continental level".

Res4Africa will not only facilitate the construction of one or more power plants, "the objective of this association is to ensure that public and private sectors have the necessary tools to work together, by establishing common objectives and proposing a common approach. Our goal isn’t that of coming to Africa to simply build a power plant. We want to offer an integrated approach, which also consists in the construction of power facilities, but which mainly focuses on our collaboration with local communities", concluded Venturini. "Our aim is to train the young people who in the near future will be the technicians in charge of actually constructing the plants and performing the maintenance work. Because, as was mentioned earlier, it is people who make a country great, not just its infrastructures".