This article reports on a number of current initiatives where the Africa Electrotechnical Commission (AFSEC) is active in support of one of its prime objectives: “to improve the wellbeing of African populations, mainly by the promotion, development and application of harmonised standards on the entire continent in order to improve access to electricity”.
Sub-Sahara Africa is characterised by low access to electricity, with rural and peri-urban areas having the worst access rates. This situation deserves our urgent attention; however, grid-connected electrification systems can be capital intensive since the existing transmission lines in the region are either already saturated or need to be extended to outlying areas where infrastructure is sparse.
This is where renewable energy based mini-grid systems can contribute to increasing the rate of access to electricity in a sustainable manner.
Solar PV technologies are showing increasing promise in terms of efficiency improvements and costs. The estimated lifespan of PV modules ranges from 25 to 30 years, which makes them exceptionally attractive for rapid electrification programmes. Solar PV systems can provide a wide range of electrical energy supply needs, especially in rural areas, for lighting,cooling, water pumping, refrigeration and telecommunications, which will reduce dependency on the main electric grids reaching these areas.
Need for technical manual on rural electrification projects
The African Energy Commission (AFREC) has commissioned Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to prepare a technical manual to guide renewable energy practising engineers and technicians in Africa on how to design, install, operate and maintain these PV systems. The manual is now in its final draft and a subsequent manual will cover the application of wind turbine technologies.
Guidelines for rural electrification in Africa a first for AFSEC
AFSEC is supplementing these manuals with guidelines on the use of Standards in Rural Electrification Projects in Africa. These will help project developers to comply with legal requirements and project owners to manage the projects in the field as well as helping to avoid technical barriers to trade on rural electrification in Africa.
The guidelines will in general reference existing credible standards including those for the IEC and in particular the IEC/ TS62257 series, with specific objectives to:
1. Prepare a technical guide for the installation of solar PV-based minigrids providing electricity access to villages in Africa.
2. The guide should explain in a detailed step-by-step manual how to design, install, operate and maintain a solar only system and a hybrid PV-diesel system.
Prompted by AFREC, the AFSEC Council approved the project in 2013 to develop these guidelines, recognising…