The willingness and interest to invest in the African energy sector is picking up globally, says Mauritius Deputy Prime Minister and Energy and Public Utilities Minister Ivan Collendavelloo.
Speaking at the Africa Energy Forum, now in its twentieth year, in Mauritius, on Tuesday, he said the event has been gathering momentum every year and offers a unique opportunity to learn about development in the energy sector and investment prospects.
He further noted that, following the proclamation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the signing of the Paris Agreement, there has been commitment to support power generation in Africa.
“Positive developments have taken place with setting up partnerships, such as the Africa European Union Energy Partnership and the Power Africa Initiative, which is supported by the US and the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative,” Collendavelloo said.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are also establishing the Southern African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which is expected to promote closer cooperation on energy development among SADC States.
These initiatives and partnerships come in light of the more than 645-million Africans who do not have access to electricity. Power consumption per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated at 181 kWh/y, compared with 6 500 kWh/y in Europe and 13 000 kWh/y in the US.
Energy supply bottlenecks and power shortages are estimated to cost Africa between 2% and 4% of gross domestic product every year; undermining economic growth, job creation and investment.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has set targets such as the implementation of 160 GW of additional capacity, 230-million additional on-grid connections and 75-million additional off-grid connections by 2025.
“There are many challenges, however, including geopolitical events that have raised great apprehensions for energy security.
“We need to diversify sources of electricity generation and find ways to optimise the use of indigenous energy resources,” said Collendavelloo.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) claims there is “immense potential” in Africa for hydropower generation, solar and biomass.
“Africa is said to receive more sunshine than any other continent,” Irena says, adding that renewable energy sources could supply 22% of Africa’s total energy consumption by 2030.
Collendavelloo explained that between 2015 and 2030, the investment required by Africa’s energy sector is around $70-billion a year – $45-billion to create generation capacity and $25-billion for transmission and distribution.
The French and Indian governments have set up the International Solar Alliance (ISA), of which Mauritius is a member. This organisation groups sunshine-rich countries, most of which are found in Africa, together.
The ISA has approved 20 projects worth $1-billion, most of which are to be implemented in African countries.
Moreover, Mauritius has set a target of generating 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2021, and has already achieved the 22% mark.
“Solar energy is a major part of the country’s energy strategy; it started with one solar farm in 2015 and we will have 11 solar plants by 2019.
“Mauritius is also establishing a waste-to-energy plant and a second wind farm. These are all implemented through urban public procurement processes and the investment is from the private sector,” Collendavelloo pointed out.
Additionally, Mauritius will be installing solar panels on the rooftops of low-income households, totaling 10 000 in its initial phase. “This will enable low-income families to benefit from free electricity for a minimum of ten years.”
Collendavelloo highlighted that public sector funding alone is not enough to rely on for energy development. Private sector investment needs to be made attractive through collaboration of policymakers, engineers and other industry players.
He announced that the next Africa Energy Forum will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2019.