In Africa, the demand for electricity largely exceeds supply. Most sub-Saharan African countries experience significant shortage in power where demand far exceeds supply.
For example Nigeria’s shortage of 173 GW (for a nation whose current energy needs is around 180 GW) gave rise to large-scale imports of noisy and polluting power generating sets.
Large numbers of households and public buildings in rural communities are not connected to their state-backed power grid. Urban dwellers and medium-sized enterprises linked to the grid still cannot be certain of having electricity all day. The government of Rwanda has set a target to achieve successful electrification by 2024.
The cost of generation and distribution of power is high. Economic and political reasons mean it will take a lifetime for these communities to be considered for connection. In several African countries, renewable energy has been the focus of development strategy and investment. Huge investments and support from the African Development Bank (AfDB), Overseas Private Investment Corporation and World Bank in solar PV and wind energy are yielding results.
The reason behind their success is adopting different strategy for power generation and market development through democratisation of energy. The easiest and most cost effective way to get electricity to rural communities in Africa is with a decentralized energy source (DER), such as solar PV, wind energy coupled with microgrids.
By adopting a decentralised energy asset base, the communities which are not connected to the national power grid will have access to electricity; and will lift the government’s burden of investing in large-scale plants to meet the growing demand for energy.
Togo, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo are doing well in setting up policies and regulatory frameworks in this sector. In an ambitious plan to achieve universal access to energy across the continent by 2025, the AfDB is mobilising capital to help realise the continent's potential to generate at least 160GW by 2025.
There is, however, an ongoing shift in how electrification success should be measured. In Africa, communities need to have appliances, classrooms, equipment, irrigation systems, and so on, ready and available to be powered by electricity. The energy supplied has to meet a demand that boosts productivity.
With the emergence of blockchain (a protocol that eliminates intermediaries), it is possible to establish an auditable encrypted ledger that can record energy consumption, credit histories (which are relevant when there is a need for access financing), as well as provide energy trading between households; giving consumers more control of their energy requirements and consumption.
Atlantic Power Exchange is developing technologies that will allow electrification of communities establishing local markets empowering them and simultaneously providing a sound economic basis for investments in renewable power generation and markets.