energy transition
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“2020 is a crucial year for Africa’s energy security. If we don’t act now we risk being left behind as the world’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources gains momentum.” This message from Anton Eberhard, Emeritus Professor and Director of the Power Future Lab at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, is specially directed at young power and energy enthusiasts who can make a difference.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 2-2020.
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Accurate short-term load forecasting is an important tool used by spot market players in the daily energy dispatch process in a power system. It is a critical ingredient for optimal generator unit commitment, economic dispatch, system security and stability assessment, contingency and ancillary services management, reserve setting, demand side management, system maintenance and financial planning in power systems.

Over 750 high-profile African students – undergoing or having completed Master’s, MBA or PhD studies in African universities from 41 countries – heeded the open invitation to partake in the Open Africa Power 2020 programme. It is an initiative aimed at empowering a new generation of leaders to drive Africa’s clean energy transition.

However, only 61 applicants made it through to the training programme. In the second week of February 2020, Enel Foundation together with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) conducted lectures under the programme Open Africa Power 2020 (OAP).

OAP, started by the Enel Foundation in 2018, is aimed at sharing information and increasing know-how regarding all aspects of electricity generation, distribution and regulation among participating African PhD, Master’s and MBA students and alumni. In addition, the education programme aims to empower a new generation of leaders able to contribute to their countries’ clean energy transition and establishes a networking platform for participants to support achievement of SGDs 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), 5 (Gender Equality), and 13 (Climate Action).

Held in South Africa for the first time, after past editions in Kenya and Ethiopia, more than two-fifths of this edition’s participants were women, confirming the initiative’s focus on gender diversity, and providing a concrete demonstration of African women’s emerging role in the clean energy transition.

Each edition of OAP includes a residential training module in a different African country. This is followed by an e-learning module and thereafter two weeks of residential training in Italy, all designed to enhance the participants’ technical, regulatory and business skills needed to work in the private and public sectors towards the electrification of Africa.

Open Africa Power: Articulated training programme

With Africa’s population expected to more than double by 2050, going from 1.2 to 2.5 billion, there is an urgent need for investment, regulation and human capital to address decarbonisation and modernisation of power generation, transmission and distribution grids while making sure that those who still lack access to electricity are not left behind.

Prof Eberhard, who was the opening lecturer of the training, said: “We urgently need more African clean energy leaders who understand these shifts and are capable of providing the private and public sectors with the expertise needed to benefit from, rather than be disadvantaged by, them.” During the training course, students learnt about the state-of-the-art technologies and areas within the energy sector that are transforming the market. At the end of each day, students were given an opportunity to share their experiences of the programme.

OAP 2020 Cape Town students and lecturers.

Word from the students on the OAP

For Glory Oguegbu from Nigeria, the topic of renewable technologies in Africa by William G Price stood out as the enormous renewable potential in Africa for onshore wind, solar PV, geothermal energy and hydropower was highlighted. “Africa has plenty of renewable energy potential and large economic potential. But limited use and deployment have taken place,” Price had stated during the lecture.

The message by Bruno Maven from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), who spoke on renewables and energy modelling, was a key takeaway for Oguegbu. “Long term energy planning, if done properly, creates consensus among stakeholders, avoids investment mistakes, reduces uncertainties in policy direction and accelerates service delivery.”

Giovanni Tula, head of sustainability for Enel Green Power, lectured on energy and the SDGs. “He highlighted the incredible result attained by integrating sustainability into their business process, improving their financial performance and embedding sustainability into their work,” said Oguegbu.

Gracia Munganga from the DRC learnt from the discussion how the power sector, particularly in the Northern hemisphere, switched from vertically integrated utilities to a liberated retail competition model across the sector supply chain. Other topics of interest for Munganga related to carbon trust, looking at how low carbon development policies – particularly the Paris agreement – which has shaped the power sector and more importantly business strategies of utilities.

Munganga said: “As one of the only two Congolese on the programme, I believe the power sector transition in sub-Saharan Africa has to increase generation capacity; build a network not only at a national but also at a regional level to enable smart network infrastructure; develop a clear regulatory framework, planning and modelling scenarios to ensure efficiency across the value chain; and mainstream sustainability to build resilient infrastructure.”

Dorothy Kanini from Kenya enjoyed the presentation by Wikus Kruger on how to successfully attract private investments for independent power projects. After going over the terms used in the discourse and the players involved with project finance, Kruger expounded on the phases of project development, which were all insightful. “We looked at analyses of potential new markets that are ready for renewable energy projects, discussing the criteria for selecting and then developing them,” Kanini stated.

Tenders were also taken into consideration, especially their features and structuring process along with the trends in renewable energy that try to reduce the cost of energy for consumers. According to Kanini, the issue of corporate decarbonisation was elaborated on in enlightening detail, together with ways to “green” C&I electricity supply and the available types of PPAs.

Nelson Mandela Foundation OAP Prize

The Enel Foundation and UCT GSB partnership announced on the sidelines of the opening of OAP 2020, the inclusion of the Nelson Mandela Foundation OAP Prize, which will be granted annually from 2020 onwards by both institutions to the best student of each edition of the programme. This is based not only on academic merit but also on the student’s social commitment to giving back to the community.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation OAP Prize will further highlight the winner’s commitment as the first recipient of the distinction will be announced on Mandela Day, celebrated every year on 18 July. The 2020 edition of OAP was also dedicated to Madiba in recognition of the programme’s promotion of sustainable solutions to critical social problems and its contribution to the vision of a just society, capable of learning from its past and listening to all its members.

Carlo Papa, Director of Enel Foundation, said: “We are proud to join forces with Nelson Mandela Foundation as both our organisations recognise that education in the clean energy transition has great potential to accelerate sustainable development in Africa at large, and share the view that Open Africa Power convenes young leaders on a valuable learning and dialogue process around critical social issues for the just transition.”

Sello Hatang, CEO of Nelson Mandela Foundation, said: “Madiba’s teachings on how to pursue a more just society recognise that sustainable development is as important as freedom in the context of developing nations. And a clean energy transition is critical for that vision of development of the African continent – hence our association with Enel Foundation for Open Africa Power.” ESI