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Gas and Small-scale renewables may be the answer to Africa’s energy crisis

The times of vertically integrated utilities like South Africa’s Eskom are limited. Such corporations would be unable to effectively address the challenge of supplying energy and clean fuel to Africa’s citizens, especially in a post-pandemic environment. In the previous month’s Africa Energy Indaba online session, Louis van Pletsen, creator of energy investment firm InAfrica Holdings, stated, “We aim to approach it in a different direction.”

“Since Covid, all 54 African nations have been declared legally bankrupt, and the pressure on the community has grown. This is a conundrum whether the concept is a power purchase arrangement with a utility support system and a government guarantee.” Given the desperate financial condition of African governments — with the exception of South Africa — introducing only 50 to about 100 megawatts of power will possibly exhaust every country’s debt and credit capability, he said.

Even if policymakers want to implement ventures of this scale, “15MW, 20MW, as well as 35MW solar farms” would not fix Africa’s energy and renewable fuel problems, according to Van Pletsen. He believes that micro-generation is the most effective way to address this continent-wide issue. “We need distributed generation,” says the author. “He mentioned rooftop solar as a possible solution. “Allow utilities to concentrate on their largest clients. Electricity from the coal-fired facility is not needed for the hut on the hill.” Simultaneously, he urged pragmatism, arguing that coal has a future if it is mixed with carbon capture and storage (CCS).

“Coal is in no way a bad thing. We ought to get rid of the idea that we have to close properties with a life left in them. CCS is available at a cost that renders it really cost-effective. The problem is figuring out what to do with carbon dioxide that has been captured. He also said that he has no objection to development organizations funding diesel power plants as long as it eliminates the need for diesel to be trucked long distances to the market. “All of this contributes to a well-balanced fuel mix that favors renewables while maximizing the usage of mature reserves for their remaining useful lives.”

According to Van Pletsen, companies should sell their power grids to foreign buyers and rely more on off-grid options to better people’s lives and decrease environmental impacts.  According to Andre de Ruyter, CEO of South Africa’s state-owned utility Eskom, Rooftop solar is the only immediate option, with the added advantage of generating employment. “It generates employment, improves the efficiency of the current infrastructure, and reduces the cost of power access,” says the company “, According to De Ruyter. “It’s a stimulus for global prosperity that we undervalue.”

Daniel Schroth, the African Development Bank’s director of renewable energy, spoke similarly regarding the advantages of “prosumers,” or electricity users that often produce fuel that can be pumped back into the grid. De Ruyter lamented South Africa’s absence of political will to completely open up the power sector to the private interests, pointing out that Vietnam did precisely that in a year, adding 7.52 gigawatts to the grid.

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