Exploring the renewable energy imperative at Africa Energy Indaba

The 11th Africa Energy Indaba (AEI) is taking place on February 19 and 20 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. It will focus on highlighting the growth potential of solar in Africa, and the role of off-grid and mini-grid applications in rural electrification.

The development of renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes is intended to address unemployment, create business opportunities and enable women to play a more significant role in the development of sustainable projects towards enhanced economic development.

Currently, solar is the frontrunner in renewables and solar photovoltaic (PV) additions are transcending all other fuels, including coal. Projections state that solar PV will represent the largest annual capacity additions for renewables, exceeding wind and hydro, within the next five years.

Africa has vast access to natural resources such as solar and wind. In fact, Africa receives more than two and a half times what Germany, being a world leader in solar renewables, does. having access to these renewable resources represents enormous potential for Africa.

According to recent tracking of off-grid solar PV applications in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), off-grid capacity is estimated to triple to over 3 000 MW in 2022 owing to solar home systems (SHS), industrial applications, and mini-grids led by government electrification programmes and private sector investments.

The most dynamic sector in the off-grid segment is solar home systems which will consequently have a significant socio-economic impact on the continent by providing electricity to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the conference, several examples will be provided of how private-sector innovations, supported by Power Africa and funded by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), are enabling communities to access power in increasingly shorter periods of time through off-grid energy solutions.

According to the organisers of AEI, market and policy frameworks require drastic improvements in order to accelerate the following objectives: providing long-term price signals to attract investment, ensuring efficient short-term electricity dispatching, pricing negative externalities and unlocking sufficient levels of flexibility, as well as cultivating various dispatchable renewable technologies, including hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal and concentrated solar power.

There are various trends driving renewable energy adoption in Africa. These include battery storage capacity improvement, development of decentralised distributed generation solutions, the progressive move towards integrated grids and the positive transition through which the African energy realm is moving.

The Women in Energy Conference is a one-day side-event of the AEI conference. It provides a platform for women to network, share expertise and discuss their accomplishments in order to encourage the advancement of women across all sectors of the energy industry.

Thabane Zulu, the director general of the South African Department of Energy will be delivering the keynote address at the opening on February 18.

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