The RES4Africa Foundation, an Italian non-profit organisation that promotes the development of renewable energy on the continent, has launched a Grids4Africa initiative to support the development of the transmission and distribution networks needed to raise levels of renewables deployment and energy access.
Nearly 600-million Africans currently do not have access to electricity and the Covid-19 crisis has, for the first time in a decade, reversed recent gains made in improving access.
Speaking during a virtual launch event on Thursday, RES4Africa president Salvatore Bernabei, who is also head of global power generation at Enel, said inadequate grid infrastructure in Africa represented a major constraint to meeting Sustainable Development Goal 7 of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.
In addition, the lack of grid infrastructure made it difficult to integrate increasingly affordable renewables capacity.
The International Energy Agency’s head of power sector unit for the World Energy Outlook, Brent Wanner, said a mix of grid and non-grid solutions would be required to ensure universal access in Africa.
However, grid-related investment would have to be a major component of what would need to be a fourfold rise in power sector investment, to $120-billion a year, to achieve universal access.
Grids4Africa would seek to leverage the platform already created by RES4Africa to increase advocacy around the need for higher levels of investment in grid infrastructure.
It would also facilitate strategic analysis, dialogue with African policymakers, capacity building and third-party financing.
In South Africa, Eskom is currently being unbundled into three units of generation, distribution and an independent transmission and market operator, or ITSMO.
The ITSMO is expected to be separated by year-end and is viewed as critical for levelling the playing field between public and private generators and to ensuring adequate investment in the grid infrastructure needed to facilitate a transition from coal to renewables.