A recent analysis conducted by the African Energy Commission (AFREC) has revealed that only 27 percent of the population in the Sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity and with this low rate, electricity supplies are mostly unreliable due to recurrent load shedding, blackouts; Transmission and Distribution (T&D) problems.
Dr. Hussein Elhag, Executive Director of the Commission disclosed this at the opening of a three-day International Solar Energy Experts Workshop at the Energy Centre of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi.
The workshop brought together Solar Energy Experts from across Africa and International Institutions including Burkina Faso and Portugal to explore solar-based electricity generation in the African energy mix as well as all related issues through constructive brainstorming and debate.
Dr. Elhag noted that the total installed generating capacity on the continent is about 117 GW while the real demand to satisfy the needs of over one billion population is about 335 GW and this capacity will jump to 584 GW by 2030 and to 984 GW by 2050, with growth rate of 2.8% annually.
According to him, in other to provide universal electricity supply by 2030, Africa needs to increase its generating capacity by 5 times compared to what is available today, and to more than 8 times by 2050. He was with the view that this is a real challenge and the introduction of renewable-based power is not an option but mandatory.
He warns that this challenge will only worsen if the continent fails to connect itself and mobilise a broad investment in technology development and acquisition to support a projected annual growth rate of 15 percent of power capacity through the next 20 years.
The AFREC boss revealed the World Bank’s estimates that Africa needs to invest US$ 30 billion annually to add 7,000 MW annually for the next 20 years in order to achieve the 21st Century level of global electrification. The only breakthrough according to him will be to develop new sources which must consider the adoption of Clean Energy alternatives, especially solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power by way of African strategy for technology development through a new “Development Model” in industry and Technology.
Dr. Elhag said although Africa enjoys significant amount of energy resources, particularly solar energy, it has failed to exploit it leaving it for the Europeans to design plans to harness it for their benefits.
According to him, in order to exploit our solar energy resources for our electricity generation and export the surplus to other parts of the world, we need solar radiation, land, technology and finance out of which Africa has the Sun and land but lacks technology and money.
He also called for the expansion of schools in Africa beyond small scale and theoretical engineering to scientific research to address large system development adding that “the development of solar energy technologies in a coherent manner and manufacturing-oriented strategies will provide Africa an opportunity for creating its “Economic Model” for which technology will become its driving force and not Agriculture or raw materials.”
Dr. Elhag hinted that AFREC decided to engage the Energy Centre to cooperate and collaborate towards supporting Africa to achieve sustainability in energy and economy.
On his part, the Provost of the College of Engineering, Professor Samuel I.K. Ampadu stated that the establishment of the Energy Centre in 2006 has provided the framework for a multidisciplinary approach to energy research through active collaboration among staff from various departments of the College in the implementation of various projects.
The African Energy Commission (AFREC), which was launched in February 2008, is a continental African structure with the responsibility to ensure, co-ordinate and harmonise the protection, preservation, development and the national exploitation, marketing and integration of the energy resources of the African continent.