The African power generation sector needs sustainable investment to bolster economic growth and assist in developing fit-for-purpose, integrated power solutions, says electrical equipment manufacturer and solutions provider Zest WEG Group integrated solutions executive Alastair Gerrard.
“Investment must be throughout the value chain – stimulating local-content supply, skills development and training, as well as upskilling where power generation projects are implemented.”
Investing in the entire value chain, rather than merely providing funds, will lead to more proven skills levels and self-sustainable economies, which is fundamental in attaining the required return on investment on projects, indicates Gerrard. Moreover, self-sustainable projects and skill sets lead to further investment.
He highlights partnering with companies that understand the requirements of the African market as an important element of investing in the sector, as this can result in providing cost-effective and reliable power generation solutions.
Gerrard laments that, while Africa boasts an abundance of resources that can be used for power generation, more than two-thirds of the inhabitants on the continent do not have access to energy, owing to, for example, difficulties in getting power generation projects off the ground and insufficient infrastructure to support energy transfer.
However, he is encouraged by the current drive to provide investment, evidenced by a growing number of large power generation projects, and the African Development Bank’s commitment to providing $12-billion for the energy sector over the next five years.
Gerrard emphasises that, when investing, fit-for-purpose power generation solutions must be pursued.
He stresses that energy is a commodity: “When end-users or investors evaluate the cost of producing energy, they consider the capital expenditure and total life cycle costs of a power generation project. Therefore, it is important that solutions presented are cost effective and fit for purpose so that investment is not hindered and the market is driven forward.”
Integrated power solutions should also be pursued, he adds.
“When looking at the opportunities in African countries, it’s not simply a case of providing a power generation solution. For each solution, you have to conduct extensive analysis, assess constraints and challenges, and find the most appropriate technologies, based on the resources and total cost of ownership, to provide a customised solution that meets energy needs.”
Zest WEG Group believes that a combination of integrated power solutions and reliable infrastructure is needed, and this is critical to develop the continent’s power generation sector.
The group offers integrated power solutions to the African market, and leverages the experience, capabilities and skills of its parent company, WEG, in Brazil, to offer sustainable power generation solutions, enthuses Gerrard.
Zest WEG Group is also aware of the constraints in Africa, and aims to provide power generation solutions that factor these in. This results in it providing fit-for-purpose customised solutions by harnessing its appropriate in-house technology and products, as well as providing aftermarket services.
Gerrard highlights early involvement as an important aspect when providing such engineering solutions. This allows for not only understanding the skills set available on site and the challenges, but also identifying the best solution immediately. This prevents a scenario where clients are getting locked into the wrong solution and trying to change it at a later stage, which is costly and difficult.
Zest WEG Group ensures early involvement through its network of agents and distributors on the continent. “If we get involved early and understand the application that is required, our experience can help define a solution and get it to a bankable stage,” says Gerrard.
Having access to technology to provide solutions and having the skills and understanding to operate in Africa are also important, he adds. Zest WEG Group is well versed in this, owing to its extensive experience in Africa, says Gerrard. The group has four local manufacturing facilities, with a thoroughly trained network of distributors and agents across the continent.
Gerrard states that, through its South African manufacturing capability, the group is promoting maximisation of local content and its knowledge of the African environment enables it to manufacture products suitable for use in these harsh conditions.
Meanwhile, there is a drive towards using an energy mix in Africa – while diesel-powered solutions are still predominant, there are opportunities in gas and renewables, as well as hybrid solutions, he mentions. Zest WEG Group has, therefore, been pursuing the renewables market in Africa since January this year.
A Zest WEG Group representative will attend this year’s POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa. Gerrard notes that this event is important because it brings together the key industry players to share ideas and consider challenges to potentially drive the sector forward in Africa.