Exclusive interview with Sliman Abu Amara, Area Manager Africa, DNV GL – Energy, diamond sponsors at African Utility Week.
1. What project updates can you share with us?
We are at the forefront of the energy transition in Africa. In fact, we are involved in the most innovative projects tackling the electricity deficit and providing confidence in the future electrification of Africa, including the incorporation of renewables. A recent project in Kenya, advising KETRACO on the construction of a 400 kV transmission line and substation is one of them.
It is very exciting to see so many of the solar and wind power plants that we have worked on or technically approved over the past few years now completed and operating. The rate of deployment of solar and wind energy in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco is incredible, demonstrating that these resources really are a game changer in the energy mix.
2. Where do you see the main opportunities in Africa?
I see Africa’s lack of an extensive national grid network not as a challenge but as an opportunity: to develop and install a 21st century energy network. One that is fit for the purpose of carrying energy from multiple sources, enabling trading between nations, with storage and smart systems built and designed in from the very start.
The technology has been developed in Europe where the challenge of retro fitting is much more difficult than starting over with a clean slate. So in many ways, Africa is poised to show the world that a clean, intelligent, sustainable and sophisticated energy system can exist in this century. Overall, the provision of access to affordable clean energy, particularly in rural areas, will support rapid economic development and a reduction in environmental decline as people switch to clean energy sources.
3. What in your view are the main challenges in this sector?
The main challenges in the African energy sector are political and regulatory. Governments are implementing programs with ambitious targets to provide more people with durable electricity solutions (International Renewable Energy Agency). These dynamic trends create the backdrop to power generation and transmission projects in Africa.
Authorities are paving the way for private entrants to the power generation sector. Renewable energies, such as wind and solar, are encouraged, as is gas fired generation, as the gap between electricity demand and supply is growing faster than renewables alone can respond to.
We need to work together as an industry to overcome and tackle those challenges.
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4. What is your vision for this sector?
A safe and sustainable future! Electricity has already revolutionised the way we power our operations, fuel our vehicles, and light and heat our buildings – and it will have an even bigger role to play in the decades to come. Many emerging technologies can provide cleaner, smarter, affordable and reliable energy. Floating offshore wind will provide large-scale emissions-free power by 2050. And a suite of smart grid technologies will provide households and communities with leaner, more local power.
DNV GL can help the African continent in its transition towards a reliable, sustainable and cost effective energy supply.
5. What surprises you about this sector?
The speed of project development and the rate of deployment in many African countries are astonishing. For instance, solar is quick to install and works on any scale, but it is surprising to see 250 MW+ projects being completed in this decade. And there are many projects of this size now being built globally.
We also see major, large-scale electrification and grid expansions in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania. DNV GL is excited to be part of this change that is rapidly evolving along the energy landscape in this region. Accelerating the transition to a safer, smarter and greener energy supply is a shared interest for DNV GL and our African clients.
6. Congratulations on your diamond sponsorship of African Utility Week, which demonstrates a lot of confidence in our event. Why did you take this decision? What are your expectations?
We’ve been attending African Utility Week (AUW) for a few years, and we’ve seen it really grow and emerge as a key event for Africa’s energy sector. AUW gives us the chance to meet many African energy stakeholders. We can develop our relationships with existing clients and further introduce our know-how to potential clients.
The last decade has seen enormous GDP growth and soaring demand for energy in Africa. For many countries, the economic projections for the next ten years are even more promising. Through our work in various parts of the continent, we see that utilities are eager to develop fast and reliable electricity infrastructure. With our almost 3,000 international experts, we are committed to helping Africa reach its development goals, by mitigating all technical risks in both the project planning and the implementation phases.
These developments make it even more interesting for us to be present at key events in Africa, especially AUW where all of the key stakeholders in the energy sector are present. With the diamond sponsorship, we want to show our commitment to the African energy sector, by providing the knowledge and expertise to help it grow further.
7. What will your message be to AUW delegates and expo visitors?
DNV GL is the energy expert in Africa – from risk management to grid studies and renewables integration, and is your partner for affordable, reliable and clean power in Africa.
Reliable networks are crucial for the region. Delivering them will require a reliable, affordable and rapidly deployable mix of renewables and storage systems plus a supportive regulatory framework and grid infrastructure that can be realised in quick order with the appropriate expertise and combinations of proven technology.
A reliable infrastructure must be built on reliable transmission distribution components. DNV GL can provide knowledge and expertise on how to ensure the reliability of certain sourced components by demanding that they be independently certified. Our specially developed tutorial for technical experts and operational managers shows them how to achieve this and what to look for.
In this perspective, DNV GL is investing €70 million to upgrade the facilities at our KEMA High-Power Lab in Arnhem, the Netherlands (HPL Arnhem). Our KEMA Laboratories already lead the world in testing and certification of the components that make up electricity transport networks. Now the upgrade will create the world’s first facility for testing extreme high voltage components – addressing customers’ future needs and maintaining our number one position for years to come.
8. You have been our partner for many years. What makes DNV GL return each year?
We see the AUW as a high-level event with key stakeholders from the entire African energy sector and value chain; an event at which utilities and renewable energy providers demonstrate side-by-side that wind and solar energy are here and must be taken seriously.
What’s more, the African continent is clearly showing that it is developing quite rapidly. DNV GL can help it to advance its energy sector through professional, world class services.
9. Which DNV GL products or services are you currently most excited about?
DNV GL is helping the African energy industry to create a future in which growing populations experience a high quality of life. To achieve this, we are focusing our wealth of knowledge and experience in energy to develop a range of dedicated services aimed at solving the unique challenges faced by industry and society in this region.
DNV GL now offers a very diverse set of leading-edge asset management systems and tools. We offer state- of- the-art short-term wind & solar forecasting services for improving energy trading and plant operation activities. And we offer the SunHelm and WindHelm portfolio management services that we can run for plant owners from our global network of renewable energy control centres. The services lower operating costs and increase the revenue potential of renewable energy projects. These are very interesting developments that I urge every owner and operator to come and see for themselves!
I am also excited about our grid and storage system modelling software. These can help large- scale energy users and IPPs develop extensive renewable energy projects that compliment and support the grid rather than act as a burden. This removes grid capacity issues and enables instantaneous power delivery when it is needed most, at any time of day.
DNV GL also provides testing and certification for grid components offered by manufacturers, and training for utilities on how to build reliable infrastructures.
10. Anything you would like to add?
If you have a project, a concept or a technical issue you think could be resolved by (renewable) energy and related grid challenges, come and speak to our team at the DNV GL stand #A18 at African Utility Week 2015.
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