George NjengaExclusive interview with George Njenga, Distributed Power Leader, GE, sub-Saharan Africa and speaker during EAPIC in the session on “An African Gas Revolution? Integrated Approaches to Gas & Power”.

Which industry trends or developments in Africa are you most excited about?

Africa has a unique set of conditions and trends that make distributed power technologies particularly attractive in the region. At 30.5%, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest electrification rate in the world.

GE predicts there will be 22 cities in Africa with a GDP above $20 billion by 2025, creating a large demand for urban infrastructure. For the electrification rate to rise, developers and their partners need to enhance gas-to-power frameworks and look at infrastructure needs for gas networks.

We also need to consider and support new solutions, such as [liquefied natural gas] LNG and [compressed natural gas] CNG, to enable a gas supply to more remote locations.

Which products or services by your company are you most excited about?

Distributed power technology from GE gives businesses and communities the ability to generate reliable and efficient power at or near the point of use, anytime—on or off the grid. Our solutions are well suited to help bridge Sub-Saharan Africa’s electrification gap with scalable, local power solutions that can improve access to electricity.

Our portfolio includes aeroderivative gas turbines, Jenbacher and Waukesha gas engines and diesel engines. GE has the broadest portfolio of distributed power solutions, ranging from 100kW to 116MW. Our extensive experience and life cycle services bring value to our customers’ operations around the world.

What makes GE a leader in this field?

There are a number of factors that distinguish GE. First, our solutions can be implemented quickly. Waiting for years or even decades to complete large power projects can impose a huge economic burden, compounded by the deferment of commercial activity.

Many of GE’s distributed power solutions, such as our TM2500 mobile power, can literally be installed in weeks. And our solutions have been designed to be modular and scalable, which makes them more affordable and more financeable.

Developers can start small and add capacity as demand grows with the economy. As a result, lower installed costs and smaller increments open up more financing choices. Cogeneration and district heating and cooling can achieve overall efficiencies of up to 95 percent, which is critical in the developing world, where fuel costs tend to be higher.

In addition to being efficient and flexible, distributed power solutions from GE are highly reliable and resilient. Our reciprocating engines for gas and oil rigs can be found in the most remote places in the world, providing reliable power under the most demanding circumstances. Even extreme weather conditions and great heights don’t affect performance.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges the utility/energy industry is facing today?
Energy generation in Africa is caught between two opposing pressures: Power demand, particularly from the industry, and chronic power shortages and service interruptions.

Going forward, energy infrastructure is critical for sustainable growth. In many African countries, however, the existing infrastructure is limited, and it will take time to develop transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure to support the growing electricity demand.

Distributed power technologies, which supply power at the point of use without the need for T&D lines, provide a complementary development approach for national power systems in which the infrastructure is not fully established.

In the future, when the T&D infrastructure is more fully developed, distributed power technologies can coexist in integrated energy systems that include combinations of both central power and distributed generation technologies.

Anything you would like to add?

GE has had a presence in Africa for more than 100 years. In 2011, we renewed our focus on the region with new investments, setting up a headquarters in Nairobi with one of our most senior leaders leading the expansion.

We now have more than 1,500 employees operating in 37 countries in the region.  GE’s capability, geographic scale, and global expertise in infrastructure technology allow us to play a significant role as a partner in the future development of Africa.