The future of Africa’s energy sector must rest in solar power if it is going to overcome the obstacles it currently faces, according to Zimbabwe-based renewable energy company Samansco CEO Nyasha Bamhare.
Addressing delegates at the PowerGen Africa conference, which is taking place in Sandton from July 18 to 20, Bamhare noted that, from a social and political perspective, and owing to Africa’s growing middle class and technological capabilities enabling development, solar energy is an obvious and inexpensive energy choice.
“Africa needs to be powered from the bottom up; it has to be green and it has to use solar,” he said.
Bamhare added that, in establishing Africa’s power future, it is important to look at the scope of available energy on the continent, and for it to be sustainable and cost effective.
“Solar energy is already 50% cheaper than coal – it’s a no-brainer,” he said.
Bamhare said he believed growth on the African continent would come from access to solar-powered energy and pointed out that, globally, there has been a significant reduction in solar prices.
He further noted that energy storage would drive growth on the continent, with energy storage prices having been reduced by 60% in the past three years, making energy storage technology more accessible to the man on the ground.
“Decentralised distributed energy generation will also be a key driver in Africa’s energy future. Though not a widely understood term, it refers to energy that is generated off the main grid, including micro-renewables, heating and cooling,” he said, further explaining that it also referred to energy from waste plants, combined heat and power, district heating and cooling, as well as geothermal, biomass and, especially, solar energy.
“We have to rethink Africa’s future as decentralised on a very small scale,” he said.
Bamhare added that there were similarities between decentralised power and what the mobile phone did to the landline.
“It acted as a disrupting technology, which made landlines a luxury. I feel that decentralised power can do the same with the content’s energy industry and power distribution,” he said.
Bamhare highlighted that 80% of Africa does not have access to electricity and that it was important to try and avoid constructing large-grid infrastructure.
“We need to create a sustainable solution with buy-in from people.”
He added that block-chain technology and storage was also coming to the fore in the energy arena.
“It is important to use smaller systems to create small-scale power grids that are more intelligent than what we use now,” he said, pointing out that, with large traditional grids, if anything went wrong, flexibility was lost.
He added that large-scale utilities and governments should not block the process of microgrids, but rather embrace microgrid technology.
“Africa’s energy future is solar, renewable and carbon free,” concluded Bamhare.