As we welcome 2021, ESI Africa spoke with industry experts to get their judgment on the year that was and their predictions for this year ahead. In this part one in a series of five articles, we spoke to Ifeoma Malo, CEO of Clean Tech Hub and Marco Rahner, Siemens Proprietary Limited.
Ifeoma Malo, CEO of Clean Tech Hub, Nigeria
Judgements: What development/s surprised you during 2020?
1. For many years, Africa has slowly been undergoing an energy transition – by utilising renewable energy to meet electricity targets particularly for rural electrification.
However, I was (pleasantly) surprised at the slight acceleration in the adoption of renewable energy sources as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. With the world literally brought to its knees by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, entire ways of living and work have been transformed.
We see businesses increasingly adopting remote work with energy consumption patterns shifting from commercial and industrial consumption to more home consumption as more people work from home and children adapt to online learning.
2. Another surprise was the stronger nexus between energy access and healthcare delivery that occurred as a result of the pandemic. There were efforts by the public and private sector to electrify health centres, diagnostic centres, ICUs and isolation centres.
This has led to renewed call for more nexus between electricity and healthcare to help fight the pandemic and future critical healthcare emergencies.
Predictions: What trends do you anticipate for 2021?
The electric vehicle market is one of the most rapidly changing and fastest growing high-tech sectors in the global economy, slowly growing demand-side opportunities (including interactive electricity demand) that will completely transform the global energy landscape.
It’s important to note that electric cars are slowly making their way into Africa despite our challenges with electricity. Currently we have EVs in Ghana, and Uganda where they believe the demand will grow, as well as in South Africa where the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3 are popular. While statistics show that electric car sales across Africa are few, I predict that it will grow and advance even more in a few years to come.
Hydrogen trend in renewable energy sector
We are seeing an increasing tilt to hydrogen – this is because in a low-carbon energy future, hydrogen offers new pathways to place a value on renewable energy sources. The hydrogen industry is well established, and has decades of experience in industry sectors using hydrogen as a feedstock.
Hydrogen technology can unlock the large amount of untapped renewable energy in Africa. Large scale storage and flexible transmission of renewable energy would achieve green electrification of sub-Saharan Africa through the use of hydrogen.
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Renewable energy/agriculture nexus
There is increasing focus on renewable energy to drive productive use particularly in agricultural economies. We see a lot of small farm-holders embracing the use of a variety of renewable energy sources for their farms and across the food production value chain.
From planting and irrigation to processing and storage, we see this trend increasing especially across rural farms without grid access. When smallholder farmers are able to increase their yields and their abilities to get crops to market. This will certainly contribute to food security.
Marco Rahner, Siemens Proprietary Limited
Judgement: What developments surprised you during 2020?
The whole of 2020, I think was a surprise for everybody; most of the topics not in a positive way. From a business point of view, the positive surprise was the increasing interest for renewable technologies and the integration all over the African continent.
Many developers and industries are interested and pushed the topics even during lockdown. The local and global lockdowns were used in many industries for future planning and gathering of strategic information.
Furthermore, the regulators gaining speed to support the integration of renewables with the necessary standards and rules.
Predictions: What trends do you anticipate for 2021?
The trends for 2021 will be a further push in the microgrids with promised funding from the African Development Bank, World Bank and international developers.
The IPP business should be strengthened and more installations in Africa will be commissioned. Remote areas will be electrified and will give the basics for further economic developments in Africa.
In developed areas, the topic of smart industries and smart campuses will be the next interesting step. Existing generation with the extension of new technologies, intelligent and energy efficient buildings will bring sustainable, economical and green campuses and cities.
The direction towards the first green hydrogen projects will be one of the interesting and new developments hopefully already in 2021.
And last but not least the e-mobility concepts will emerge and hopefully regulators and governments will support this trend from their side, financially and technically.
Read part three now
Predictions 2021: Part three, new push for renewables in green recovery