While reviewing the trending stories on the ESI Africa website this morning, I was reminded of a quote about Africa needing baseload energy.
Originally published in the ESI Africa final newsletter for 2019 on 4/03/2020
Referring to Africa’s power generation market, the quote reads: “Africa needs baseload power to drive industrial growth, but it must also take advantage of the emerging technologies, innovations and business models in the off-grid systems to accelerate access to lighting for millions of Africans.”
These words were uttered by Akinwumi A. Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank Group, in March 2017 during the launch of the Africa Progress Panel Report “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa”.
The reason this quote came to mind is that the most-read stories on ESI Africa over the past week include articles relating to nuclear and coal, both of which are baseload generation technologies that have fallen out of favour.
In terms of nuclear, the article is based on a white paper from the World Nuclear Association. It explores how this energy source can work in unison with renewable energy.
Furthermore, the article references the IEA, which recommends policy reforms to “…ensure competition on a level playing field” and that the “… focus should be on designing electricity markets in a way that values the clean energy and energy security attributes of low-carbon technologies, including nuclear power”.
On the topic of coal, analysis suggests global electricity production from coal is now trailing and is set for a record decline. This is bound to leave Africa’s coal resources in the dark as export markets dry up and coal-fired power plants become less attractive to investors and funders.
In fact, since the 2017 speech, the AfDB’s tune on the necessity for developing baseload generation has changed. While addressing the UN’s Climate Action Summit in September 2019, Adesina outlined efforts to shutter coal-fired power plants and build the “largest solar zone in the world” in the arid Sahel belt.
The message is that in the power generation market, the Bank is “getting out of coal” and views the future as being solely a renewable energy-driven market.
This stance is attracting opposing views. As mentioned by Guled Wiliq in response to an ESI Africa Tweet, African countries are being pressured to adopt an energy transition using solar or wind.
This is happening even though the continent is rich in resources like hydro, geothermal, gas and uranium. “After all, Africa emits less CO2 than India. 100% electrification is impossible without investing in diversification,” states Wiliq, who is an innovator when it comes to solar energy in Somalia.
I’m reluctant to leave this important topic at that and invite you to join me in a live discussion on 24 March to unpack the need for a boom in the commissioning of baseload generation power plants alongside utility-scale clean power plants. It’s an area of infrastructure where enormous opportunities to scale up investments lie waiting.
Until next week.