Inadequate funding underpins Africa’s clean energy poverty

According to the International Energy Agency, since the pandemic, about four out of five people in sub-Saharan Africa are without access to electricity while people who had recently gained access to clean cooking energy reverted to traditional fuels because they could no longer afford it.

This restricted access to reliable and clean energy is the reality of millions of people and businesses across Africa.

Not only does it affect economic growth, but it also plunges these communities into poverty and environmental destruction. Sadly, the situation does not show signs of improving anytime soon.

For a continent like Africa so disadvantaged by its economic strength, meeting this challenge becomes a state of emergency because its communities economic future depends on energy to thrive.

Without access to clean energy, environments will degrade, trees will be cut for fuel, and these activities will limit options for coping with climate change. Agriculture output will decrease because there won’t be energy to power farm equipment for improved productivity neither will there be irrigated water during droughts nor access to markets for crops.

All these ripple impacts will further deepen poverty in the continent.

But Africa isn’t folding its arms. In fact, the continent is looking to navigate away from fossil fuel dependence to affordable, reliable, and climate-friendly energy.

However, Africa needs clear clean energy targets as well as detailed energy transition plans that consider all available renewable energy resources, technical capacity, technical infrastructure, and a critical look at how energy is being created and used.

Also, it needs to explore distributed renewable energy (DRE) as a means of strengthening the resilience of national grids and distributing energy to underserved people.

DREs also have the potential to increase Africa’s access to clean energy seeing as only about 55% of its population has access to reliable energy, a detriment to the continent’s economy.

Africa can adopt solar-powered DREs either as stand-alone solutions for communities, or use them intermittently with national grids to fill energy gaps. That way, rural areas will have access to electricity and growth opportunities.

But the continent cannot do this alone especially on DREs because they do not come cheap and in Africa currently, they are underfunded. It is for this reason that Africa can do with all the financing it can get to support green energy development because it only accounts for 4% of global power supply investment.

According to estimates by economists, achieving reliable electricity would require an increase to about $120 billion a year through 2040. This has caused several countries, including Nigeria, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Ethiopia to evaluate their policy and regulatory conditions and develop extensive national energy plans.

The global community, through philanthropy, can help Africa achieve a more equitable transition to clean energy. It just takes some amount of catalytic capital to help the continent achieve its energy goals.

#Women4theClimate: Damilola Ogunbiyi is accelerating sustainable energy adoption

Hello readers,

Welcome to #Women4theClimate on CleanbuildVoices!

It is another Wednesday and for today’s special, we’ll shine the spotlight on an amazing woman who is passionate about ending energy poverty and is actively working in the sustainable energy space to effect a change.

Our Woman Crush Wednesday (WCW) is none other than Damilola Ogunbiyi, the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL).

To Damilola, sustainable energy is the difference between a mother or a baby living or dying. This inference is drawn from her experience when she was in her 20s which also kindled her passion to make energy accessible.

She had an opportunity to provide power to a baby hospital and as she walked into the hospital after the project, she walked into a significant number of people who were clapping for her. She didn’t understand why until a doctor at the hospital explained that it only took seven seconds during a major operation for a woman or baby or both to die. That was the beginning of the journey for Damilola.

Damilola is a global leader and advocates for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7), which calls for access to reliable, affordable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

She is currently the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, Co-Chair of UN-Energy, a Commissioner for the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty which is an initiative driven by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and The Rockefeller Foundation, as well as the Co-Chair of the COP26 Energy Transition Council aimed at driving action to accelerate the shift to clean energy ahead of COP26 and to bring together leaders in the power sector across politics, finance and technology to speed up the transition from coal to clean renewable energy in developing countries.

Damilola is also a member of the Development Advisory Council of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a member of the clean cooking alliance advisory board, and a member of the Advisory Board of the University of Oxford – Future of Cooling Programme.

Prior to joining SEforALL, she was the first female Managing Director of the Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency where she successfully negotiated the Nigerian Electrification Project – a $550 million facility aimed at closing the energy access gap in Nigeria by rapidly constructing solar mini-grids and deploying solar home systems across the country.

She also conceptualised the Energizing Economies Initiative aimed at providing affordable and sustainable off-grid power solutions to economic clusters, including markets and industrial clusters in Nigeria, that is estimated to impact 1.2 million SMEs.

She entered public service as the Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). Prior to her appointment, she was a consultant for the UK Department for International Development (DfID) on public-private partnerships.

She was the first female to be appointed as the General Manager of the Lagos State Electricity Board and five independent power projects aimed at delivering over 55 megawatts of power to Lagos State hospitals, schools, streetlights, and the Government secretariat, were completed under her leadership.

Damilola previously worked as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Power and Head of the Advisory Power Team in the Office of the Vice President of Nigeria. She was responsible for the Power Sector Recovery Programme – a series of policy, operational, governance and financial interventions to be implemented by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN).

She has a particular interest in mentoring and empowering young people through skills acquisitions. Little wonder she created the Lagos State Energy Academy to build the capacity of young people in renewable energy technology, and the Energizing Education Programme (EEP) which launched a Female STEM Student Internship Programme to provide hands-on practical experience in designing and constructing power systems for 700 female undergraduates.

Watch this space as we’ll be back for another edition of our #Women4theClimate.

#FactFriday: Debunking 2 myths about renewable energy

Hello readers.

Welcome to #FactFriday on CleanbuildVoices!

Since the talks about climate change and transitioning to renewable energy became frequent discussions, there have been critics who make it a point of duty to highlight reasons why they think transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources will take eons to happen. Their reasons are in two folds:

Firstly, they believe it is too expensive. Secondly, they believe they are unreliable.

Their reasons are totally untrue and we think it’s time we challenged these assumptions.

Renewable energy is a money-making scheme

People believe renewable energy is expensive and as such, the switch from fossil fuel to renewables will be too expensive for mass adoption but this isn’t true.

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are the cheapest ways of generating electricity and they are also 100% efficient at end-use. The great part is that they can be produced and managed locally.

Renewable energy can’t function in cloudy or windy weather

There’s a somewhat general belief that because renewable energy sources rely on the weather, they are unreliable. This, also, isn’t true.

The industry is developing new ways to make electricity storage and demand management at high times possible and seamless. So, even when it’s not sunny or windy, you can still rely on them to meet your energy needs.

The improvements in terms of generation and storage are resulting in decreased purchasing costs, making it more appealing to customers.

Bottom line

The declining cost of renewable energy signals the need for individuals, investors, and companies to invest.

Governments can boost renewable energy adoption as a means of mitigating climate change, facilitating the economic expansion of the industry, and ensuring a uniform transition for people and communities.

Thanks to development, the system has transitioned into a self-reliant one and this is a good one for the environment. Hopefully, the myth and common assumptions about their unreliability will be put to rest with the improvements.

New report shows solar and wind produce the cheapest electricity

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in partnership with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has released a report that shows that solar and wind hold the top spot when it comes to the cheapest ways of generating electricity.

The report also includes the costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the future generation of electricity from fossil fuels as well as strong projections for quickly reducing costs of electrolyzers for hydrogen production (about 90% in the next three decades).

According to the report, while the costs of producing electricity from fossil fuels remain stable (or increase depending on the costs of CCS), the total costs of electricity generation from solar (rooftop, medium, or large) and wind (especially offshore wind) are projected to continue to decline.

In addition, the report indicates that battery costs will expectedly assume a downwards slope.

CSIRO discovered that the added costs of CCS technologies almost doubled the levelized cost of both coal and gas electricity generation.

The report notes that new coal power plant builds are likely to become more expensive to finance as the world moves towards a fossil-free future, making their deployment less likely.

The report also shows two major improvements:

Firstly, global modeling now determines the hydrogen production technology mix under each scenario, and the additional electricity demand imposed by hydrogen production from electrolysis.

Secondly, the deployment of carbon capture and storage outside of the electricity sector.

Paul Graham, Chief Energy Economist, CSIRO, said: “The energy sector is rapidly changing so we need updates like this report to ensure that our planning is based on the most up-to-date cost estimates.”

“It’s also crucial that stakeholders have an opportunity to scrutinize the changes to ensure they are consistent with direct industry experience.”

All the estimates in the report are based on a maximum of costs across nine weather years. When the costs are added to variable renewable generation costs and compared to other technology options, these estimates show that wind and solar PV remain the lowest-cost new build technologies.

Solar power: South Korea offers Nigeria $12.4m worth of solar mini-grids

South Korea has offered to help Nigeria develop nuclear energy options to address power generation supply and shortage in the country.

This was disclosed by the Ambassador of South Korea to Nigeria, Kim Young Choe, at an interactive session with the Senate Committee on Power, chaired by Senator Gabriel Suswam, on Thursday.

The committee had called for the meeting to clarify certain issues regarding the stand-alone solar mini-grids project which the South Korean government is gifting Nigeria and is valued at $12.4m.

According to Choe, the nuclear energy options currently being used in the United Arab Emirates are based on South Korea’s model and powered by South Korean companies. The ambassador further added that the project is a grant to Nigeria, not a loan.

Choe stated that all the four solar mini-grids would be sited in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, adding that the assembling, installation, and maintenance of the project will be handled by South Korean contractors.

The committee welcomed the gift, thanking the South Korean Government for its generosity. However, the lawmakers had a few reservations about the siting of the solar mini-grids in Abuja as revealed by the ambassador.

Suswam urged the South Korean Government to consider distributing, at least, two solar mini-grids each to the six geopolitical zones in the country, while leaving one for Abuja.

He further said that the $12.4m that was being proposed for four solar mini-grids in Abuja would be sufficient to build 12 grids, albeit with smaller capacity but with a far much greater impact across the country.

In his presentation at the session, Salihijo Ahmad, who is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Rural Electrification Agency, stressed the need for the grids to be distributed across the country.

Ahmad also expressed concerns about the sustainability of the project since it is South-Korean Contractors that will be handling it, inquiring about the possibility of having Nigerian companies work on the project.

Responding to the committee’s recommendations, Choe, said their demands were difficult but he would forward the request to his government in Seoul.

Innovators can now apply for the World Economic Forum Clean Energy Transitions Accelerator

As seen during the COP26 climate summit, accelerating clean energy transitions has become a global imperative as a key driver for addressing both economic recovery and the current climate emergency.

Alongside the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda Week, UpLink, a digital platform that centers on digital communities which support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is inviting innovative solutions and entrepreneurs to step up and share their approach to accelerate a clean energy transition.

The Founder/CEO / Executive Director of the most promising solutions will be invited to become an UpLink Innovator and benefit from the unique impact eco-system of UpLink and the World Economic Forum.

Note that submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis (every 8-12 weeks).

Benefits of participation
  • Public exposure via the Forum’s digital media channels (public website, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter);
  • Access to participate in selected World Economic Forum and UpLink Impact Partner events, communities and projects;
  • Opportunity to network with selected organizations in the Forum’s and UpLink Impact Partners’ network;
  • Custom support offered by Forum Partners and Impact Partners.

Click here to apply.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for Lagos’ electricity system?

Lagos State is the commercial hub of Nigeria and prides itself as the most developed state in the country.

However, like the rest of the states in the country, it faces the same electricity issues. From epileptic power supply in some areas to none at all in other areas.

Considering the number of businesses it houses, coupled with extreme heatwaves due to climate change, one can only imagine the number of generators that run daily to ensure these businesses stay afloat and power fans and air-conditioning units for people to cool off, thereby causing further damage to the environment.

It would then seem that Lagos is not only faced with an electricity crisis but also a pollution crisis. What then is the way out?

Well, the Lagos State Government has unveiled the “Lagos State Electricity Policy” aimed at providing clean, affordable, and uninterrupted power supply to residents.

At the unveiling of the policy which was organized by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said that the electricity policy extensively talked about the constitutional, legal, commercial, and engineering foundations for creating a workable sub-national electricity system.

This system would enable socio-economic growth for the state and the nation as well.

With the increasing energy demand as a result of population growth and the emergence of new residential and industrial areas, the state seeks to explore alternative energy supply channels.

As part of the implementation of the electricity policy, the state would bolster the procurement of pre-paid meters for distribution to residents thereby promoting transparency in the supply chain, reducing electricity theft, and impeding estimated billing from the suppliers.

The governor rounded up by saying private partners also have to be as invested in the objectives of the electricity policy as the government actualizes the capacity boost in off-grid generation and distribution networks.

Also speaking at the unveiling, the Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Olalere Odusote, said that the electricity policy would not only clear out the constitutional and legal framework for investors’ assurance but also provide for the establishment of an independent regulatory body and system operator.

The commissioner also said that one of the policies would help in establishing and augmenting the Lagos Electricity Market (LEM).

This is a commendable effort by the Lagos State Government to solve the state’s electricity issue and tilt towards other clean energy resources.

As with other things, implementation continues to be the stumbling block to most of these initiatives and projects. We hope this wouldn’t be the case for this one. Only time will tell.

New report shows rise in Africa’s energy transition

DLA Piper Africa has released a detailed report on the Africa Energy Futures: Horizon 2030.

The leading law firm, through the report, analyzed 21 countries and the energy transition in Africa, while predicting emerging challenges and opportunities in the next 5-10years.

The 21 countries were individually analyzed using uniform questions and themes in a bid to enable comparative analysis.

Despite the efforts being taken to decarbonize African countries, many areas are still very much rely on fossil fuel even though about 12 out of the 21 countries in the report depend on clean energy as an important part of power augmentation.

It also highlights the notable differences between countries that have diversified energy supply and power systems which is leading to uneven development across Africa.

According to the report, despite the differences, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel as it spots a lucid theme and central focus by African governments in the area of scaling renewable energy capacity as part of their agenda to meet the ever-rising energy demand (which is expected to double by 2040) and drive the energy transition agenda.

In some nations (Angola, Burundi, and Ethiopia), it will come in form of expanded hydroelectric capacity while the focus for others (Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa) will be on developing solar and wind infrastructure with the aim of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and biomass sources.

DLA Piper’s Head of the UK Energy and Natural Resources practice and Partner, James Carter said, “Given the post-COP26 backdrop and findings, there is a heavy focus on how the energy transition will help arrest climate change.” 

He believes that Africa, because of its size and predicted future growth and development, will play a key role in decarbonizing the global economy through its adoption of renewables and other technological breakthroughs.

“Our report highlights how far African countries have come and what can actually be achieved in a 2030 horizon,” added Carter.

Summary of the report:

  • Nearly all of the 21 countries that were surveyed have put legislative and/or investment programs in place for renewables, which provides opportunities for African countries to pioneer the energy transition and enable a large-scale cross-border investment opportunity.
  • In the next 5-10 years, it is expected that fossil fuels and biomass will still make up a significant part of the energy mix for almost all of the jurisdictions. Despite that, Algeria, Angola, and Nigeria are exceptions as they continue to promote and secure investment in new oil and gas developments.
  • The incentives for transitioning to renewable energy in Africa are not only recognized and acknowledged but are seen as a remedy for overcoming generation deficits and achieving middle-income nation status by 2030.
  • To ensure energy transition, African countries will need to put in place, attractive legislative frameworks and incentivize clean energy investment.

You can download the full report here.

Generators vs solar panels: A case of cost effectiveness

The rapid shift from fossil fuel-powered generators to solar panels in Africa is a significant step towards mitigating climate change as generators are one of the major polluters, churning tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Beyond their environmental effects, generators also have a long-term cost ineffectiveness compared to solar panels. How?

In this article, we will be taking a look at these two sources of energy and why we think solar panels have a cost-effective advantage over generators.

Generators consume a lot of fuel whether you run them daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Now, to the ordinary eye, the initial cost of buying a generator and the amount spent on fuel may seem insignificant if a yearly cost analysis was to be done in comparison with solar panels which cost almost an arm to purchase upfront.

But to the keen eye, solar panels have long-term cost-effectiveness because, apart from the initial purchasing amount, there isn’t anything else you would need to purchase for a long period because the average solar panel can last for years (and we’re talking about 25-30 years).

Another aspect that generators fall short in the cost-effectiveness department is the amount it takes to service generators and buy new parts.

If you’ve ever owned a generator, you would agree with that generators need servicing and some parts will get due for replacement in other to prolong their life.

Now, here’s the shocker. If you add the cost of servicing and replacing a generator’s parts to its initial purchase cost plus money spent on buying fuel, let’s say in the space of two years, you’d discover that you’d have spent way more than you would if you had just bought a solar panel, which costs nothing to run.

A good solar panel works autonomously and its solar regulator takes care of the battery which is maintenance-free.

Having considered the cost-effectiveness of solar panels, it would be important to note that it has an Achilles’ heel which is that it is heavily dependent on the weather and therefore, may not be as reliable as generators that can provide power continuously.

Solar panels output tends to drop when there’s less sunshine but asides from that, they’re a perfect energy source if you’re thinking long-term.

Refugees get solar digital classrooms to facilitate learning

In a bid to enhance refugee literacy in a COVID-19-safe way in Uganda and India while harnessing the unlimited power that solar energy provides, Salesforce, a software company, has partnered with Simbi Foundation in its Read-A-Thon.

The Read-A-Thon by Simbi Foundation aims at encouraging individuals of all ages to pick up interest in reading and prompting community learning across the globe. The Foundation’s global library comprises storybooks narrated by learners which can be easily accessed by 180,000+ students from over 80 countries, including remote and refugee learners.

Similarly, Salesforce also donated two BrightBox Micros, which are solar digital classrooms designed to enhance learning capacity, in the crowded refugee schools in the United Nations Bidibidi Camp stationed in northwestern Uganda.

The Bidibidi Camp is home to 239,000+ people, making it the second-largest settlement of its kind in the world. Out of the refugees in the camp, 143,000 of them are school-aged children.

However, the teacher-to-student ratio is poor because there are only 850 teachers available to teach over 70,000 students that are enrolled in schools across the settlement. Available textbooks for learning too are limited.

BrightBox Micros are powered by solar energy and are the damage-proof movable versions of the full Salesforce BrightBox classrooms, with a capacity to simultaneously support about 1,500 learners via an offline intranet.

During the Read-A-Thon, BrightBox offers refugees of the Bidibidi Camp access to books and other important digital educational resources like the Simbi Learn Cloud curriculum as well as resources to train teachers.

Simbi Foundation’s reading technology was developed on the “bi-modal” reading principle which enables learners to read and listen to books simultaneously. This approach has proven to increase literacy scores by up to 100% compared to traditional learning methods.

Speaking on the impact of the project, Jesse Friedland, Salesforce Regional Manager, said, “636 books narrated and thousands of learners impacted around the world—proud of the Salesforce team! If you’re looking for a meaningful, COVID-19-friendly way to give back, consider a Read-A-Thon with Simbi Foundation.”

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