Renewable energy will grow from 35GW to 115GW by 2030 in sub-saharan Africa, according to GE Power © PhotoSpirit
Renewable energy will grow from 35GW to 115GW by 2030 in sub-saharan Africa, according to GE Power © PhotoSpirit

'Smart grids offer power solution for Africa'

19 July 2018

Power firm GE Power has recommended the introduction of smart grids to solve the problems within sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) power network. 

In a white paper, the firm said that moving towards digital power grids could provide a solution for a region in which 590m people live without access to electricity.

SSA needs to go beyond maintaining and repairing ageing infrastructure, it said, and take a “holistic approach” of installing smart grids, with automatic monitoring of power grids, to end the “high levels of power supply instability”.

Smart grids are electricity networks which digitally monitor and react to changes in electricity usage, mitigating power surges and cuts.

The biggest issues in the region were “poor maintenance of existing infrastructure”, it continued, one of the main causes for power supply instability.

The paper also recommended combining these smart grids with renewable energy, which will grow from 35GW to 115GW by 2030, it said. Renewables would benefit the region because of their “affordability, speed and decentralisation,” it said.

It pointed to the example of South Africa, which has installed smart grids and developed renewable energy networks through its government-sanctioned Renewable Energy Power Producer Procurement Program. This has enabled the country to mitigate the financial burden of theft of electricity, which is the third most stolen commodity in the world, it said.

“Transmission and distribution networks are seen to be the weakest links in Africa’s power systems and hence represent a huge opportunity area for improvement,” said Lazarus Angbazo, chief executive of GE’s SSA grid solutions business.

“Going forward, there is a need to move beyond simply maintaining and repairing aged infrastructure. To truly advance the power sector, a holistic approach needs to be adopted; one that ensures sustainability, reliability and longevity of power supply. 

“By utilising internet of things technology, the smarter grids of tomorrow will deliver all-encompassing solutions based on the convergence of operating technology with information technology and incorporating emerging concepts such as distributed generation and energy storage,” he added.

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