If Africa is to undergo an energy surge, it needs to break from monopolies, believe Simon Rolland and Aneri Patel, from the Alliance for Rural Electrification

ACCORDING to the International Energy Agency, 1.5bn people, or 22 per cent of the world’s population, are without access to electricity, 85 per cent of which are in rural areas.

Africa has only achieved energy access for 40 per cent of its population (sub-Saharan Africa at 28 per cent), yet the population continues to quickly rise.

Due to soaring population growth, particularly in urban areas, the energy demands far outstrip supply. Compared to its geographic size and population, Africa has a relatively small power sector. Electricity is needed for both industrialisation and for basic energy needs in rural areas.

No competitors

Monopolies are part of the problem – state owned power utilities have generally no competitors in their national electricity industry. Unreliable power supply, low capacity usage, high transmission and distribution losses, deficient maintenance and lack of spare parts contribute to the problems that plague energy access.

However, Africa is blessed with a diversity of natural and renewable resources that will ultimately become mainstreams in the electricity generation of the continent, especially for off-grid generation. Renewable energy represents the most local, flexible, adaptable, easy to scale, operate and maintain source of energy, capable of turning natural burdens, such as deserts, into opportunities.

Sub-Saharan Africa has tremendous natural advantages, with some experts estimating the continent’s potential for power generation from renewables to be more than 200,000 TWh/year, including more than 30,000 TWh/year rated as competitive in the short term.

So Africa should not be seen only as a poverty market -the middle class and commercial groups will do far more to develop solar markets in the long term once the market potential is realised.

Finally, there is growing evidence that investment in small and medium scale Therefore the focus, when it comes to renewable energy systems may have energising the bottom of the pyramid, more impact in improving energy should be on this scale. services for the majority of developing countries’ population than any other type

A home being equipped with a solar of electricity generation project. panel in rural Africa 25 26 ELECTRIFICATION | ENERGY



Plenty of opportunity

As the African market is steadily and profitably growing and with more solar resources than anywhere else in the world, there is plenty of opportunity for renewables.

The Alliance for Rural Electrification (ARE) represents companies and organisations that share the view that rural communities in developing countries have an alternative to traditional electrification and conventional energies.

Renewable energy technologies, utilised in off-grid and mini-grid power systems, can sustainably meet the energy needs of rural communities at an affordable price.

Due to low potential electricity demand and economic development in these areas, grid extension is often not a cost-competitive option. A study by the World Bank on rural electrification programmes placed the average cost of grid extension per km at between $8,000 and $10,000, rising to around $22,000 in difficult terrains.

Many projects have demonstrated that decentralised renewables are a more reliable electricity resource than grid connectivity due to the overstretched and unreliable capacity of central systems.

Another central issue is the role of the private sector. ARE believes that private companies can become a key driver in the field of rural electrification. Many companies have now demonstrated their capabilities by implementing successful rural renewable

energy projects throughout the world. However, a crucial precondition is an enabling legal and financial framework. ARE serves as an international platform for sharing the knowledge and experience of the private sector interested in operating in developing countries. It develops technological and financial solutions, which are made available for policy makers and others in the field of rural electrification.

Reliable, cost effective and sustainable energy solutions exist and are being implemented every day worldwide. The benefits of electricity are enormous; quality of life improves as socio economic issues such as infant mortality, illiteracy, life expectancy and total fertility rate improve with access to energy.

Achieve more

Electricity is a prerequisite for economic development, not a result. When renewable energy technologies are politically supported they can reach people faster and achieve more than any other technology or master plan, in addition to preserving the current state of our ecosystem.

For example, in Nigeria, Solarmate has installed solar power for 40 secondary schools’ computer labs. Many projects are implemented every day by the members of ARE worldwide. They are the living and growing proof of the expansion of small scale renewable energy markets in developing countries and especially Africa.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has a number of promising funds, partnerships and joint ventures for UK companies interested in renewable energy projects in developing countries. In general, ARE encourages all companies or organisations willing to get involved in this business to integrate its platform, which foster business networking and opportunities and at the same time represent this growing market in front of most decision makers.

The Investment Climate Facility for Africa builds the environment for investment climate improvement by encouraging coalitions to drive through change, and by supporting dialogue between businesses and governments and encourages business to respond by improving Africa’s image as an investment destination.

The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The aim is to encourage private sector companies to compete for investment support for their new and innovative business ideas. The AECF is open to proposals that take place in all African countries. Multi-country and regional projects are also eligible.

Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund is a public private partnership able to provide long-term finance on commercial terms to finance the construction and development of private infrastructure in countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF) is a new fund, which was launched in October 2010. Projects will be selected on the basis of demonstrable impact on poverty, clarity of outputs and outcomes, and value for money. Only small UK-based NGOs with an average annual income of less than £500,000 for the past three years can apply. Projects must be located in the bottom 50 of the Human Development Index.

The Development Awareness Fund is open to any UK-based NGO or network committed to raising awareness and understanding of development issues. 27 The Alliance for Rural Electrification. Tel: +32 (0)24001052, www.ruralelec.org


Being a complete energy efficient system, the outer cladding is clamped and automatically seals the superstructure. Similarly the inner cladding is fixed internally and houses the plug and play electrics, plumbing and services.

The buildings are approved by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and they score 30 per cent above required building standard regulations on fire testing, and three to five times the strength requirements of structural regulations.

Although the tallest unit to date is three storeys high, in theory 15 storeys or more are achievable.

“The system is simple but durable,” says David. “Because the panels are affordable to produce, we are able to include sophisticated engineering in the design at a competitive price.”

South Africa is an ideal export market for UK companies due to similar financial and legal systems, a familiar business culture where English is the primary business language and a time difference which is never more than two hours.

The South African government has embarked on an ambitious five year capital expenditure programme worth approximately £74bn, with the majority of the spending taking place in public infrastructure and power generation.



The AcerMetric building system is suited for some 60 different sectors from temporary to permanent accommodation.

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