Once again, Enlit Africa (formerly African Utility Week & POWERGEN Africa) was off to a good start. The keynote session and panel discussions went straight to the point – the 5Ds of Africa’s energy transition can’t be realised without financial backing.
Using an engaging digital platform, Enlit Africa asked the audience to take a poll on which of the 5Ds they believe is the most important in achieving our energy transition.
The Ds that have been identified for Africa encompass decarbonisation, digitalisation, decentralisation, deregulation and democratisation. The audience was also given the option of selecting all of the Ds in terms of “you can’t have one without the others”.
The poll result had a surprising outcome, and I wonder if this is driven by the current market conditions where policy is seen to stagnate growth.
Deregulation came up strongly with 35% of the vote. However, the D that I’ve been following is decarbonisation. This D has the most influence in meeting the global net zero target and is an area where companies and utilities alike can reduce carbon emission regardless of the prevailing policies.
In the keynote address, as it happens, South Africa’s energy minister was unable to deliver his much-anticipated speech himself but had prepared his department’s director-general to stand in at short notice. Advocate Thabo Mokoena first unpacked South Africa’s energy landscape and government’s plans, which many stakeholders are already familiar with.
South Africa’s efforts to decarbonise its energy market is thwarted by its 74% reliance on coal-fired power. As such, since the introduction of renewable resources onto the grid, these technologies only comprises of 15% – much of which includes the existing hydropower capacity of 7%. So what did the Minister’s speech share that we don’t already know?
According to Adv. Mokoena, the country is making steady progress on its hydrogen roadmap. There is also a commitment to finalising the renewable energy masterplan. However, I fear the previous disappointments by renewable energy multinationals will keep stakeholders from taking this message in earnest.
Two key messages from the Minister’s speech stood out for me; first, the need for a just energy transition and that this evolution will require collaboration on both a financial and a technical level.
While all the keynote speakers and panellists shared valuable insights, here is a teaser into what took place:
South Africa has set its eye on hydrogen with the Department of Science and Innovation backing skills development and IP to the tune of R1.2 billion ($890 million). It is believed that the Hydrogen Society Roadmap and development of the platinum value corridors will drive the country’s hydrogen economy.
It is a good investment as these projects will start by targeting the transport sector, responsible for 91% of South Africa’s emissions – and with the possibility of reinventing rail with hydrogen trains.
While hydrogen is spoken about as the new kid on the block, talk about financing the energy transition in Africa is often seen as something that must happen in the nebulous future. However, from what panellists in the Financing the African Energy Transition session were saying, there are already financial mechanisms that is starting the change in the here and now.
That is good news, as Sabine Dall’Omo, the CEO of Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa, shared during the keynote too often, there is a considerable gap between reality and rhetoric.
Another snippet of interest popped out during the First Solar IPP in Burundi session, which showcased the time-lapse of this project. Even though it has taken years to get right, it does highlight understanding who you are doing the project for and with, is what ultimately gets the project up and running.
I recommend that you watch the recordings of these Enlit Africa sessions. Or select the connectivity-friendly option for audio-only. Then, enjoy and share your response on which of the 5Ds stands out for you and why.
Until next week.