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Could Renewables Unlock Localised, Affordable Power Generation For Africa?

The slow pace of developing Africa's traditional electricity distribution network has, ironically, opened the door for alternative energy generation approaches based on renewable energy sources and technologies—and their success to date suggests huge potential for the future.

Rapid evolution of solar and wind power systems—and to some extent hydropower and biomass-based methods—are leading the charge to bring small-scale, local energy supply to areas that are remote, have low population densities or are under-served by national infrastructure. It is no coincidence, for instance, that the cellular phone was developed in Scandinavia, where low population density called for an alternative to the costly option of physical cabling over long distances to reach small markets.

The traditional model of large-scale coal based power generation at centralised points, sending electricity across thousands of kilometres of transmission grid, is proving to be challenging for many African countries. While this model is often very efficient once it is up and running, there are considerable barriers to its establishment in Africa - including high capital expenditure, high interest rates and frequent cost overruns.

Authors: Andrew van Zyl | Partner | Principal Consultant, Chris Dalgliesh | Partner | Principal Environmental Scientist/Consultant, Darryll Kilian | Partner | Principal Environmental Scientist/Consultant, Marius van Hyssteen | Associate Partner | Principal Environmental Scientist, Wouter Jordaan | Partner | Principal Scientist

SRK Africa