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Ed’s note: Your colleagues share their views on a new dawn for Africa

What did you do to celebrate Africa Day yesterday? I took a moment to look through the industry specialists who will make themselves available next month for open discussion.

These adventurous professionals will be gathering at the Enlit Africa event on 8-10 June, hosted entirely digitally yet still giving a sense of being connected.

From their profiles and conversations we have had, it is evident that a new dawn is rising where energy access for all is within reach.

However, as Wim Jonker Klunne, coordinator of the Household Solar Funders group at the Shell Foundation, points out, the biggest challenge will be in assuring affordability for the end-user. “We will need to look into ways of closing the affordability gap through targeted subsidies, while at the same time ensure that the energy provided will be used for productive uses as that is the best way of ensuring economic development,” he said.

I agree with his sentiment. Failing to consider the productive use of energy when installing a project can be the vital puzzle piece that sees the project either scaling up or failing to impact positively.

Industry specialists who will speak at Enlit Africa, see the value in renewable energy, whether micro, small or large scale. Progress in this market is a reality and a necessity, changing the landscape of the traditional electricity industry.

According to Isabel Fick, general manager system operator at Eskom, renewable energy changes the generating technology profile. It changes the way we manage the national grid as a whole.

“South Africa needs the extra capacity to drive the economy and future of our beautiful country. Hopefully, in doing so it can influence and contribute to the rest of the continent. Renewable energy is critical to the growth of our joint economies and the changes required in the industry as a whole. It is by no means without challenges, but overcoming those can only bring about positive change.”

She adds that all power systems experience similar challenges, and each offers unique and exciting solutions based on their specific characteristics. “Being able to tap into global thinking and innovative solutions offers a rich diversity of learning from one another and adapting these ideas to our specific circumstances,” she said, explaining why attending Enlit Africa is on her calendar.

Fick will be part of a presentation introducing the Global Power System Transformation Consortium to the African continent. This Consortium is a coming together of power system operators from across the globe to help each other accelerate the transition to advanced low emission power systems.

While policy and investment decisions decarbonise the electricity grid, the off-grid solar market also represents an excellent opportunity. Off-grid solar can build a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy delivering social and economic impact. 

Drew Corbyn, the head of performance and investment at GOGLA, stresses that we need to raise awareness among climate investors: “the off-grid sector is ripe for investment and growth”.

He states that off-grid solar products and services can help people become more resilient to climate shocks and build their adaptive capacity to climate change.  “Adaptation funding has yet to feature strongly in sector investment – this is a missed opportunity we must address.”

Corbyn explains that governments and development partners have an essential role in catalysing markets to establish a conducive policy and regulatory environment and support investment with grants, patient capital and subsidies. He said that raising awareness of these impacts and opportunities alongside financial and technical support can accelerate these efforts. 

These industry specialists have so much knowledge to share. I am glad the Enlit Africa event is hosted over three days to give ample opportunity to address the various factors and trends such as the age-old challenge of revenue management and the newcomer, hydrogen.

It is my pleasure to invite you to register for the event and connect with me as we explore how Africa’s cities, towns and communities can climate-proof their energy sectors.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.