“I believe that in 2020 we will see very strong deployment of solar technologies in Africa”
Interview with Sliman Abu Amara, Area Manager Africa, DNV GL – Energy, diamond sponsors at African Utility Week in Cape Town in May.
Let’s start with the Department of Energy’s (DoE) recent announcement that it has approved 13 new renewable IPP bids:
DNV GL is very pleased that the DoE has announced the results of round 4. We are even more pleased with the second announcement that they are going to add even more renewable energy capacity on top of round 4. It signals the strong commitment of the South African government to continue renewable energy deployment in South Africa. We encourage the whole sector to anticipate these developments and continue helping South Africa stabilising its energy sector and solve the load shedding problems. DNV GL is committed to continue to be the reliable partner for renewable energy projects in South Africa.
What is your vision for solar in Africa?
Everybody always smiles when you talk about solar in Africa: the continent that is so abundant with sun so solar is the most logical choice for Africa. There are a few projects starting, South Africa again is leading the market. Morocco has developed a few projects, so has Egypt. Other countries are following suit but unfortunately it is still going too slow. And that is despite the fact that during the last ten years, solar has become cheaper and cheaper and cheaper.
What we identified as a company, for African utilities to continue attracting investments in solar, they have to solve issues related to grid integration and grid connection of solar, to identify the sites and to upgrade the grids. Once this chicken and egg dilemma in Africa has been resolved, you will see a larger penetration of solar projects.
What I personally project, looking at the transmission and interconnection lines between many countries between the power pools, that will ready I think in 2020. I believe that in 2020 we will see very strong deployment of solar technologies in Africa. Like never before. You can quote me on that!
You have a specific way that you go into a country and kind of immerse yourself as a local firm. Can you explain that philosophy?
We are very selective about the markets that we operate in. We see a lot of potential in many countries but we are more interested in their governments and utilities that have to implement the commitments. There has to be at least the political will to do something and improve the situation in their countries. That is the case in countries that are ahead of others, where we pioneering and helping them. Pioneering in our contact with the key stakeholders, we have established excellent relationships with the utilities, with government, but also with the investors and developers. So we also play a role in boosting confidence. When we arrive in a country as an independent, third party electrical engineering company and start with a project that is a first for that country, we assist the project developer with the technical challenges, both in terms of renewable energy technology, grid connection and integration, we boost confidence and then the project becomes visible.
We have applied that model with success in many countries. I can proudly say the last biggest success for us was being the engineering company at the Lake Turkana Wind Park in Kenya, 300 MW of wind power, it will be the single largest wind park in sub-Saharan Africa. And our company was involved in this project from the beginning and now it is being implemented.
Tell us more about the workshop you recently hosted in Egypt?
We all know what has been happening in Egypt in the last few years. The country was very ambitious in terms of renewable energy. It has high targets: 20% renewable energy in the country. The political instability has caused delay in the situation. The recent government has recently announced quite an ambitious programme with quite a solid FIT programme to enable to financing of renewable projects in Egypt, both solar and wind. We were requested by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and our partners and project developers from other countries to engage in a one-day workshop to highlight to everyone who is interested in the Egyptian market the technical challenges in the market.
We have done this presentation and our key message to all our clients was that Egypt is a very important market for the renewable energy sector – it is going to be growing very fast. There are of course political and financial challenges which we at DNV GL cannot solve but we are there to boost the confidence that we can solve any technical challenge. And we are there to assist all the project developers, investors and utilities in Egypt to make the government’s plans achievable and implementable, at a reliable, sustainable and affordable price.
Can you share more of DNV GL’s success stories?
I think the biggest success we have achieved has been in South Africa. South Africa as a country is slightly different from other African countries. It has its own well developed electrical market and a high level of electrification. It has a modern economy, has high ambitions but also has a lot of challenges which we are all aware of. The commitment by Department of Energy, the government and the financial sector, which was very important to South Africa, has attracted so many investors from abroad to come to South Africa. DNV GL as a company has played a key role in technical engineering here and South Africa now leads the African and Middle Eastern markets in terms of installed capacity of wind energy and that is going to be the case in the next five, 10 and 20 years. That is I think the most exciting thing in Africa.
Can you tell us about the DNV GL survey on three dynamics reshaping renewable and the grid? You are planning to present specific results on Africa at African Utility Week in May.
At this moment our company is working on a large survey for Africa regarding three dynamics reshaping renewable and grid connection. We know that as a company worldwide that renewables and the grid is a complex issue. It is the same in more advanced economies such as in Germany and the US. But we are also aware of this from our work in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco that grid integration and connection will be the challenge in the coming years in Africa and it will become bigger and bigger and bigger.
This is why at the African Utility Week, DNV GL will announce the results of the survey in order to develop a tailored solution to the African grid challenges that will enable African utilities to connect and integrate more renewables into the grid.
Why did DNV GL decide to join AUW as a diamond sponsor this year?
First of all, we have noticed a lot of things happening in the African market, in South Africa, in sub-Saharan Africa and in Northern Africa. We have noticed that the African market is ready for the penetration of larger scale renewable energy on the continent. As a company that has been working in Africa for so many years and being the key player in the renewable energy sector, I can proudly say that my company has been working on the largest wind and solar energy projects in Africa. That’s the case in South Africa, that’s the case in Kenya with Lake Turkana, that’s the case in Morocco and that’s the case in Egypt. We also see the first projects coming in Tanzania, Ghana and Nigeria. So, we know the market, we know our clients and know the needs of the market. We want to use this opportunity to emphasise our commitment to the electrification of Africa, to the sustainable development of Africa and also to show that we are here, we are staying and that we are here for years and years ahead.
What will be your message at African Utility Week this year?
DNV GL is the diamond sponsor at African Utility Week this year. We wanted to demonstrate to our partners and clients our commitment to the development of the power sector in Africa. We are here to demonstrate once again our commitment to the long term development of the renewable energy sector in African countries. We have identified the challenges that this sector faces in these countries through our experiences. We are willing to continue working with my clients on all the projects and plans coming through. We also identified one issue and that is our commitment to local content – the empowerment of Africa. We have identified the issue of capacity and we have now developed a strategy to localise in terms of resourcing, working with universities in African countries to empower Africans to make DNV GL localised and looking African. Our company is 150 years old, that is very old. In China we are Chinese, in India we are Indian, in Brazil we are Brazilian and in America we are American. We want to be African in Africa and we want to be South African in South Africa. And that is going to be the challenge but we are looking forward to jointly implementing it with our partners and clients in Africa.