TO achieve a minimal level of universal energy access across Africa, at least $20bn per annum of new infrastructure investment – comprising both generation and grid assets – will be required.
This is according to the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy paper, Bringing Power and Progress to Africa in a Financially and Environmentally Sustainable Manner.
The capital need is substantially larger for greater energy availability, amounting to $1 trillion spread over the next few decades, the study finds.
Other major findings included that the mix and the pace of coal power plant and renewable energy project additions will heavily shape the future trajectory of CO2 emissions associated with African electricity generation.
Choices on new generation will matter significantly, and major plans are underway to add coal capacity in many African nations, despite increasingly compelling economics and abundant supplies of renewable energy resources – notably hydro, solar, and wind.
The weakness of transmission grids across Africa, particularly between countries, impedes the ability to effectively develop new large power projects. This drives a greater reliance on smaller-scale generation, providing additional impetus for solar and wind projects that are already benefiting from declining cost trends.
The advancement of energy storage technologies will also support an increasing trend towards distributed renewable energy generation assets.
The electricity sector development path for Africa is likely to be quite different for rural and urban regions.
The latter will leverage the existing grid through refurbishments and targeted investments.
The former can take advantage of novel distributed energy resources technologies and business models to deploy entirely new micro-grids that have lower capital requirements – and thus the prospect of lower risks to investors.