“Diesel can become a major cost item on a company’s income statement, and one that said company has little control over,”
“Diesel can become a major cost item on a company’s income statement, and one that said company has little control over,” illustrates Conri Moolman, COO of Kudumane Manganese Resources Ltd. While solar installation is not without its challenges, the present technology available on the market, coupled with the escalating need for a reliable energy source makes Africa a prime target for the booming solar market.
“Generation and distribution are the two major challenges,”
Mr. Cleverson Takiguchi, Director of Business Development Africa with S&C Electric Company, and Mr. Daniel Davies, Commercial Manager East Africa with Solarcentury, both agree that there are a number of increasingly pressing challenges for commercial high energy users in Africa who are reliant on diesel energy. The environmental consequences of burning diesel are problematic, releasing climate-warming carbon into the atmosphere. Additionally, diesel isn’t as cheap as it used to be and isn’t always available. “Generation and distribution are the two major energy challenges impacting businesses in many parts of Africa,” notes Davies. “In tandem with there not being enough [electrical] generation, there is a huge, pent up demand for people to get connected onto the electrical network and both of those challenges require a huge amount of investment.” It’s against this backdrop that solar is becoming regarded as the solution to these energy woes, particularly as the cost of solar energy continues to fall, making it competitive with grid energy in some countries.
Davies continues, “Businesses using diesel for power are paying large amounts per kilowatt hour. For example, one kilowatt hour delivered to a hotel in Sudan can cost up to $1 USD per kWh because its remote location means it is not connected to the national grid. For these situations, solar diesel hybrid solutions with batteries would massively reduce energy costs. In less extreme cases, however, public utilities in countries suffering from under investment are still struggling because they rely on short term solutions to meet their energy needs, which means an over reliance on diesel power, resulting in very high energy bills.” However, short term energy solutions are not the only target area for replacement.
“We [S&C Electric Company] as suppliers of energy storage systems have been receiving a significant number of calls from customers who are thinking of installing PV; some are asking for battery energy storage to deal with the intermittency, but the primary reason has been to displace the traditional fossil fuel generators.”
Mr. Takiguchi also asserts that, “We [S&C Electric Company] as suppliers of energy storage systems have been receiving a significant number of calls from customers who are thinking of installing PV; some are asking for battery energy storage to deal with the intermittency, but the primary reason has been to displace the traditional fossil fuel generators.” When referring to the situation that has prevailed in South Africa, Mr. Moolman also emphasizes, “[...] regarding electricity generation (delays in projects and the major backlog with maintenance on the current infrastructure) over a number of years, the current state of affairs has forced companies to reconsider their supply options as it severely impacts their operations and contribution to the country’s GDP.”
While many intensive energy using companies are questioning whether their high energy demands could be met with the use of solar or solar hybrid solutions, Mr. Takiguchi and Mr. Davies independently agree that additional opportunities such as solar storage and battery systems will help to ease the transition from diesel to solar hybrid solutions. Because of the high output and demand of intensive energy users, the concerns regarding solar can now be alleviated. “One of the reasons solar is taking off within Africa is because solar generation is quicker to build compared to other generation sources and the cost of PV panels has decreased significantly. Solar creates an alternative to the traditional fossil fuel sources as well since the reliability of these has been decreasing,” explains Mr. Takiguchi.
“Kenya has a very tough target ahead as they’re targeting 5 GW of new generation by the end of 2016, on top of its current capacity of 1.8 GW.”
The solar market in Africa is growing exponentially from all sides. Not only is there a tremendous unmet demand for solar solutions, but various companies and industries around the continent are eager to make the transition. “There is a huge market in Africa with a voracious appetite for more power to support proliferating economic growth. Kenya and other countries have very ambitious plans to expand the provision of electricity to their population and reduce the cost of electricity by investing in better equipment. Kenya has a very tough target ahead as they’re targeting 5 GW of new generation by the end of 2016, on top of its current capacity of 1.8 GW,” discloses Mr. Davies.
This massive planned expansion represents just how much power and support lies within the solar market throughout Africa, which is why the Solar Diesel Africa knowledge platform held in Johannesburg from March 3-5, 2015 will be such a beneficial event, bringing solar experts, solution providers, investors and financiers from around the world together with over twenty exciting intensive energy using companies from all over the African continent.