PRESENTATION: From left, Carolina Desmeules, Associate Communications Director; Olufemi Arosayin, Chief Commercial Officer; Mohamad Darwish, Chief Executive Officer, and Adeola Olasewere, Head Marketing and Communication, all of IHS Towers, at the presentation of a report commissioned by IHS on renewable energy in Africa and written by The Economist Intelligence Unit, in Lagos.
By Prince Osuagwu
THE result of the Economist unit report on Africa’s renewable energy goals, sponsored by mobile telecommunications Infrastructure Company, IHS Towers, has asked the continent to back down its high horse of ambitious energy targets and make some reasonable investments. Meanwhile, the report also admitted that Africa has the potentials to deliver a renewable power revolution that can replicate the wonderful growth being experienced in the telecommunications sector.
However, that, is dependent on how prepared the continent could rally the about $90 billion investment needed to make meaningful achievement.
The report “Power Up, Delivering Renewable Energy in Africa,” written by the Economist Intelligence Unit highlights examples of successful renewable energy projects across the continent and identifies barriers and promoters of success within the sector.
The key findings included that: “The case for building renewable energy infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa is stronger than ever and positive experiences in lead markets such as South Africa and Kenya highlight successful strategies and best practices.
However, Africa requires up to US$90 billion of investment annually to meet its current energy shortfall”.
According to the report, the African renewables sector resembles the mobile phone sector of a decade ago. It has the capacity to leapfrog heavy infrastructure with a larger-than-assumed market, the emergence of smart business models and improved technology. However, long-term renewable procurement programmes are needed to build the Greenfield infrastructure necessary.
Bits and pieces
The bits and pieces that support this finding included that there has been huge growth in technology sales and financing innovation. For instance, the market for pico-solar units has grown from almost zero in 2009, to 4.5 million in 2014 and, in January 2016, Africa saw its first solar bonds, a securitisation financial product for small scale off-grid solar projects.
Ambitious energy targets are not enough. Investors are carefully assessing the technical capacity of host governments, the country’s infrastructure track record and the connection between renewable targets and economic needs. The report finds that a 680% increase in net renewables capacity deployment is needed if Africa is to achieve the African Renewable Energy Initiative’s ambitious goal of 300 GW of renewable capacity by 2030.
IHS Towers Co-Founder and Interim IHS Nigeria CEO, Mohamad Darwish, said that “this report reaffirms that Sub-Saharan Africa has the raw ingredients for a vibrant renewable energy market: resource abundance, falling costs of wind turbines and solar panels, smart innovations in end-user equipment and political commitment – by governments and international donors alike”.
He revealed that IHS has seen the energy and operational efficiency benefits that come from investing in renewable power solutions, having invested US$500 million in new green energy power systems across its portfolio. “Over the next few years, we plan to become almost diesel neutral across our Zambian portfolio and we’re assessing solar farm opportunities in Rwanda that could potentially supply power to the national grid in the first energy swap model to be used in Africa” he added.