To meet skyrocketing demand for electricity, African countries may have to triple their energy output by 2030. While hydropower and fossil fuel power plants are favored approaches in some quarters, a new assessment by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has found that wind and solar can be economically and environmentally competitive options and can contribute significantly to the rising demand.
“Wind and solar have historically been dismissed as too expensive and temporally variable, but one of our key findings is that there are plentiful wind and solar resources in Africa that are both low-impact and cost-effective,” said Ranjit Deshmukh, one of the lead researchers of the study. “Another important finding is that with strategic siting of the renewable energy resource and with more energy trade and grid interconnections between countries, the total system cost can be lower than it would be if countries were to develop their resource in isolation without strategic siting.”
The research appeared online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in an article titled, “Strategic siting and regional grid interconnections key to low-carbon futures in African countries.” The lead authors are Deshmukh and Grace C. Wu, both Berkeley Lab researchers in the Energy Technologies Area. Much of the initial research was funded by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which is based in Abu Dhabi. Individual fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Link Foundation to Wu and Deshmukh supported the expanded analysis on wind siting.
“As a region, Africa is in an unparalleled energy crisis rife with electricity deficiency, lack of access, and high costs,” said Wu. “How African countries and the international community tackle this crisis in the coming decades will have large social, environmental, and climate implications.”
One-of-a-kind open-source planning framework and tool
The Berkeley Lab study is the first of its kind for Africa, using multiple criteria-such as quality of the resource, distance from transmission lines and roads, co-location potential, availability of water resources, potential human impact, and many other factors-to characterize wind and solar resources. Looking at the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP), which together include 21 countries accounting for half the continent’s population, it found that many countries have wind and solar potential several times greater than their expected demand in 2030.
The tool they used to make these evaluations, the Multicriteria Analysis for Planning Renewable Energy (MapRE, at mapre.lbl.gov) was developed at Berkeley Lab in collaboration with IRENA and is open-source and publicly available to researchers and policymakers.
“Usually project developers will just choose the site with the least levelized cost and best wind speeds, but in reality those aren’t the best sites,” Deshmukh said. “Often times you want development closer to transmission infrastructure or to cities so you don’t have to assume the risk involved in developing transmission infrastructure over long distances, let alone transmitting electricity across those distances. It’s difficult to quantify those costs. Our tool enables stakeholders to bring all these criteria into their decision-making and helps them prioritize areas for development and preplanning of transmission.”
Siting and grid interconnections are key
Not only did the researchers find plentiful wind and solar resources in Africa, another key finding was that system costs and impacts could be lower with robust energy trade and grid connections between countries. And if wind farms are strategically sited so as to manage peak demand, costs can be lower still.
“System costs can be further reduced if wind farms are sited where the timing of wind generation matches electricity demand rather than in areas that maximize wind energy production,” Wu said. “These cost savings are due to avoided natural gas, hydro, or coal generation capacity.”
For example, the researchers found that in a high-wind scenario in the Southern Africa Power Pool, strategic siting and grid interconnections would reduce the need for conventional generation capacity by 9.5 percent, resulting in cost savings of 6 to 20 percent, depending on the technology that was avoided.
“Together, international energy trade and strategic siting can enable African countries to pursue ‘no-regrets’ wind and solar that can compete with conventional generation technologies like coal and hydropower,” Wu said. “No-regrets options are low-cost, low-impact, and low-risk.”
With Berkeley Lab’s MapRE tool, policymakers will be able to do a preliminary evaluation of various sites on their own without having to rely on developers for technical information. “This information brings policymakers level with project developers,” Deskhmukh said. “It reduces costs for everybody and allows for a much more sustainable planning paradigm.”
In addition to Africa, the researchers have uploaded data for India and plan to add more countries, most likely in Asia. And they have held five workshops in Africa for regulators, academics, utilities, and energy officials to share the approach and findings. “They’ve been super enthusiastic,” Deshmukh said. “We’re seeing impacts on the ground.”
The amount of wind and solar currently deployed in Africa is tiny, he said. But with global prices having declined dramatically in the last decade or so, renewable energy has become a competitive alternative. And while hydropower is a significant and familiar resource in Africa, climbing costs and persistent droughts are making it less attractive.
“Just based purely on economics today wind and solar are attractive,” Deshmukh said. “It makes economic sense. Through planning around multiple stakeholder criteria and prioritizing wind and solar projects for regional energy trade, policymakers and financiers can increase their cost-competitiveness.”
These recommendations were made at the end of a workshop held in Gaborone, Botswana, and was attended by SADC minister of water and energy resources and released Tuesday in a communiqué.
The objective of the workshop was to facilitate exchange of ideas and forge practical and sustainable solutions in addressing energy and water challenges in the region with a view to map out a strategic direction and agree on a way forward.
The workshop observed that some of the challenges which are contributing to energy insecurity in the region are the focus on national self-sufficiency by member states, which leads to stretching the little resources and yield of minimum generation capacities.
“On a similar note,” the communiqué said, “Riparian States sharing a river basin are still inward looking and aiming at building national dams to meet their national needs which tend to be very expensive and create some competition within the river basin.”
Furthermore, the communiqué said despite the region’s abundant potential for hydro-power, solar power, wind power, coal and gas, it is experiencing energy insecurity because of poor investment in these energy sources.
According to the communiqué, lack of consumer education on efficient use of both energy and water is another cause of water and energy shortages.
The workshop proposed joint investments on strategic water and energy projects, citing the example of the Grand Inga hydropower project in the Congo basin that could contribute towards the regional energy supply if implemented.
Another recommendation was that a study should be carried out on transferring water from the water rich basins to the water stressed parts of the region through inter/intra basin transfers. Enditem
Sustainable development summits and climate change negotiations have slowly but steadily paved the way to the recognition of the inextricable linkages between water, energy and climate change.
It is undeniable that water and energy resources share a strong interdependence. Equally, both are perceived as stressed, precious and with the potential to trigger conflicts.
Beyond the generation of electricity via hydropower, energy needs water to cool power plants or to produce biofuel, whereas water needs energy to be treated and distributed.
Conversely, poor governance of one sector has knock-on effects for both water and energy security. For instance, a water-intensive industry like mining that often causes point pollution can affect rivers downstream and endanger the environment and human life more broadly.
Among African energy departments, water is an increasing concern on government agendas.
In regions such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the ability of water resources to respond to growing industrial development needs is increasingly questioned today.
Despite the controversial history of large dams across Africa, harnessing this continent’s hydropower potential has been a key feature of recent intergovernmental initiatives, such as the Inga 3 or the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as well as the African Union’s flagship Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
Apart from large dams’ hydroelectricity, other options have emerged that link water and energy in a more sustainable way.
Innovations such as amplified hydropower generation technology – using a cascade principle in a watercourse to increase efficiency, as well as solar plants sustaining water desalinisation processes and activating water distribution pumps – illustrate how water and energy have learned to speak to each other.
In addition, technologies gearing wave and tidal power towards electricity generation or ‘next generation’ hydropower production, such as hydraulic turbines floating in riverbeds, presented at the COP21 solutions exhibition at the Grand Palais, underscore how vital innovation is to respond to climate change challenges.
However, while our societies’ technical skills are expanding at a rapid pace, a gap remains between inventions stemming from public and private research labs and their industrial production to benefit our societies.
Bringing scientific and industrial networks to collaborate is essential, and forums such as the Africa Techno organised in South Africa this year provide concrete platforms for innovative solutions to be turned into climate actions.
More importantly, a rising concern lies in the political and economic treatment of such innovations.
Controversial repartition of governments’ incentives between traditional and renewable energy sources reinforces suspicion.
One suggestion could be to better integrate the respective targets of water and energy sectors, as well as budget allocation regarding infrastructure building and maintenance.
This would enable a concurrent increase in their sustainability, efficiency and equity for all.
Among stakeholders, increasing awareness of climate change challenges has resulted in a better resource allocation at all levels through careful planning, saving and recycling.
Governance patterns have started to transform significantly to reflect systemic water and energy linkages.
But these attempts to manage water and energy have been met with mixed success, partly because most institutions operate under a complex system of unclear mandates and obscure funding.
In addition, they often struggle to build up institutional and legislative capacity gaps. This does not necessarily imply that today’s shaping of resource management is doomed. However, there is a clear need to improve – if not to reconstruct – perception, use and management patterns of resources.
Our increasingly complex resource governance architecture, with a strong security focus, is not able to allow technology and innovation to come to the rescue yet.
Turning innovations to future benefit for all requires the encouragement of interactive work between engineers, researchers, policymakers, industry and civil society groups.
International gatherings bringing diverse stakeholders together are thus essential. The objectives of COP21 include not only the provision of up-to-date scientific and technical information to world leaders, but also the opportunity to innovate enabling mechanisms to tackle the impacts of climate change on present and future resources.
South Africa remains the only nuclear energy producer in Africa, but soon it may be joined by others across the continent in pursuit of a dependable energy source.
Now, the continent’s sole nuclear power plant is the Koeberg plant, which provides half of Cape Town’s power needs. Completed in 1984, the facility was a cover for the former apartheid government’s scheme to develop nuclear weaponry as it fought Soviet backed liberation movements.
In total, six nuclear devices were built. These were dismantled as the apartheid era wound down, and South Africa is the only country to have developed nuclear weapons and then voluntarily given them up later.
This legacy of nuclear for peace has been maintained ever since by the African National Congress, which has ruled since Nelson Mandela was inducted as the first democratically elected president in 1994.
Other African countries are now looking at nuclear to provide for growing energy needs. Last year, Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, said it would have at least two reactors operating within 10 years.
“Africa is heavily dependent on hydropower that is at the mercy of rainfall,” said Kelvin Kemm, a nuclear physicist and chief executive of Nuclear Africa. “In times of drought dams are unreliable, and this is where nuclear can fill the gap.”
In East Africa, Kenya has advanced plans to develop nuclear energy. Last September, the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board signed an agreement with China General Nuclear to explore the construction of a plant based on the Hualong 1 reactor design.
Only three out of 10 Kenyans have access to electricity, and the country is building out solar, wind and geothermal energy sources. The country intends to be energy-sufficient within 15 years and regards nuclear as part of the mix.
Kenya is perhaps the most energetic in its pursuit to be the next African state to produce nuclear energy; last year it held its third conference on the topic, and it has sent dozens of physics students to study in the US and South Korea.
“We need a dependable, reliable and continuously available system,” energy principal secretary Joseph Njoroge told the conference, according to Kenya’s Business Daily.
“Solar and wind are good sources and renewables. But they are only available at certain times.”
African countries also produce a significant amount of uranium, the fuel source for nuclear plants.
Niger in the north, South Africa and neighbouring Namibia between them supply almost 20 per cent of the current world demand.
Hydropower — often considered a renewable source of energy that is key to meeting global climate goals — is big business in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong river basins, where more than 450 dams are on the drawing board.
But dam building in tropical rainforests comes at a huge cost to biodiversity and the tropical rain forest ecosystems that provide humans with clean air and water, according to a Texas A&M University study published Thursday in the journal Science.
“Far too often in developing tropical countries, major hydropower projects have been approved and their construction begun before any serious assessments of environmental and socioeconomic impacts had been conducted,” study lead author Kirk Winemiller, an aquatic ecologist at Texas A&M University, said.
The tropics, the earth’s most biologically diverse and forested region, stores more carbon than any other region. Hydropower’s impact on biodiversity is an important factor because biodiversity loss may reduce the rain forest’s ability to withstand and help mitigate climate change, recent studies have shown.
Biodiversity is being threatened throughout the tropical forests of Asia, Africa and South America, according to the Texas A&M researchers.
The dam-building rush, especially in the Amazon, impedes tropical fish migration and vastly expands deforestation because of the construction of new roads. Brazil, for example, gets two-thirds of its electricity from hydropower, and 334 new dams are being proposed in its diverse tropical rainforests.
In Southeast Asia, the Mekong River Basin already has 370 dams, and there are plans for construction of nearly 100 more, including dams on the river mainstem, Winemiller said.
“The Lower Mekong River supports important inland fisheries, recently valued at about $17 billion a year,” he said.
Fishery losses in the wake of new dam construction poses a food security challenge in Thailand, where 99 new dams planned for the Mun River Basin would require up to a 63 percent expansion of agricultural land, which leads to further deforestation, the study says.
The study adds that economic projections often exclude or underestimate the costs of environmental improvement following the construction of major dams. China, for example, spent $26 billion to reduce the ecological impacts of the Three Gorges Dam — the world’s largest hydropower dam — on the Yangtze River.
“Long-term ripple effects on ecosystem services and biodiversity are rarely weighed appropriately during dam planning in the tropics,” the study says. “Institutions that permit and finance hydropower development should require basin-scale analyses that account for cumulative impacts and climate change.”
Scientists unaffiliated with the study say it illustrates the possibly outsized impact that dam building in the tropics has on biodiversity, and possibly the climate.
José Maria Cardoso da Silva, an environmental geography professor at the University of Miami, said the study shows that three of the most biologically diverse river basins on earth are under high pressure from dam building, and countries are doing too little to prevent significant environmental harm from such development.
New roads built for dam construction create new economic opportunities, or “economic frontiers,” such as logging in previously untouched rainforests, creating unregulated access and deforestation, which is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions fueling climate change, he said.
Methane emissions from newly-built reservoirs only increase hydropower’s impact on the climate, he said.
“Nothing is going to change if we do not propose feasible solutions so that megadiverse countries can produce the clean and renewable energy to sustain their development without damage to their extraordinary biodiversity,” Silva said.
Mauro Galetti, a Sao Paulo State University conservation biologist in Brazil who published a study in December showing that a decline in biodiversity in tropical forests reduces their ability to store carbon, said dam building is a “major disaster.”
“Many politicians and engineers proclaim that hydroelectric power dams is a ‘green energy,’ but this is a big mistake,” he said. “Hydroelectric dams create a huge impact on climate, biodiversity and people’s health. This study alerts us to the large-scale impact of dams in tropical forests, and if these projected dams are built, we will have a worse scenario for climate change than we would expect.”
Climate change impacts and associated changes in water resources could lead to reductions in electricity production capacity for more than 60% of the power plants worldwide from 2040-2069, according to a new study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change. Yet adaptation measures focused on making power plants more efficient and flexible could mitigate much of the decline.
“Hydropower plants and thermoelectric power plants—which are nuclear, fossil-, and biomass-fueled plants converting heat to electricity—both rely on freshwater from rivers and streams,” explains Michelle Van Vliet, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who led the study. “These power-generating technologies strongly depend on water availability, and water temperature for cooling plays in addition a critical role for thermoelectric power generation.”
Together, hydropower and thermoelectric power currently contribute to 98% of electricity production worldwide.
Model projections show that climate change will impact water resources availability and will increase water temperatures in many regions of the world. A previous study by the researchers showed that reduced summer water availability and higher water temperatures associated with climate change could result in significant reductions in thermoelectric power supply in Europe and the United States.
This new study expands the research to a global level, using data from 24,515 hydropower and 1,427 thermoelectric power plants worldwide.
“This is the first study of its kind to examine the linkages between climate change, water resources, and electricity production on a global scale. We clearly show that power plants are not only causing climate change, but they might also be affected in major ways by climate,” says IIASA Energy Program Director Keywan Riahi, a study co-author.
“In particular the United States, southern South America, southern Africa, central and southern Europe, Southeast Asia and southern Australia are vulnerable regions, because declines in mean annual streamflow are projected combined with strong increases in water temperature under changing climate. This reduces the potential for both hydropower and thermoelectric power generation in these regions,” says Van Vliet.
The study also explored the potential impact of adaptation measures such as technological developments that increase power plant efficiency, switching from coal to more efficient gas-fired plants, or switching from freshwater cooling to air cooling or to seawater cooling systems for power plants on the coasts.
“We show that technological developments with increases in power plant efficiencies and changes in cooling system types would reduce the vulnerability to water constraints in most regions. Improved cross-sectoral water management during drought periods is of course also important,” says Van Vliet. “In order to sustain water and energy security in the next decades, the electricity focus will need to increase their focus on climate change adaptation in addition to mitigation.”
Africa received a $10bn boost of help to build out its renewable energy sources, with Germany leading the advanced economies in its contribution.
Germany’s Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks made the announcement on Monday on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Paris.
“Africa has a large hunger for energy,” Hendricks said. “We have to avoid that this hunger is fed with coal, oil and gas.”
The announcement was one of a series of additional financial pledges amounting to about $98bn made during the UN climate talks in Paris since November 30, according to an informal calculation.
The money, to be used to help poor countries adapt to global warming and build renewable energy sources, includes $20bn from individual countries, $67bn from multilateral banks and $10bn from UN climate organisations, according to a list of individual pledges maintained by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
On the Africa initiatve announced on Monday, Germany is contributing €3.3bn. France, the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and the EU Commission are contributing the rest to the $10bn sum.
The goal of the Africa initiative is to provide by 2020 an additional 10 gigawatts of renewable energy across the continent. The long term goal eyes 300 gigawatts capacity by 2030.
Alternative energy is in its infancy in Africa. The current capacity as of 2014 is 33.5 gigawat, according to International Renwable Energy Agency. There are, however, ambitions for African countries to further exploit renewable sources, with a focus on hydropower.
“Around 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity,” said German Development Minister Gerd Müller.
Pretoria — South Africa will for the first time host the South African International Renewable Energy Conference from 4 to 7 October in Cape Town.
The conference will be held under the theme: “Re-energizing Africa”. Addressing the media in Pretoria on Saturday after the Cabinet meeting held this week, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said the conference will profile renewable energy opportunities available in South Africa and Africa to producers of renewable power as their next investment destination.
“South Africa, through its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme, is becoming one of the biggest markets for renewable energy,” he said. According to Minister Radebe, in future biomass, wind power, solar power and hydropower will contribute 11.4 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid.
The Department of Science and Technology is supporting the country’s energy policies through research and technology development in low and carbon-free technologies that can be commercialized and rolled out to increase energy security and access to all South Africans.
“We are now capable of manufacturing and integrating various components into a whole range of energy generating devices for these applications that are currently undergoing testing. “The benefit of our hydrogen and fuel cell technologies Programme is the use of platinum which will also open opportunities into the automotive catalytic converter market and promote beneficiation of one of our most abundant minerals. In this regard, we have established and are strengthening our partnership with the private sector to do final tests and commercialize various components and full energy solutions,” he said.
Enel Green Power (“EGP”) has begun construction of Pulida solar power plant, which is located in the Free State Province in South Africa.
The new solar facility will have a total installed capacity of 82.5 MW and once fully operational will be able to generate more than 150 GWh per year, equivalent to the annual consumption needs of around 48,000 South African households, therefore avoiding the emission of more than 138,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.
The energy generated by Pulida will be sold to the South African utility Eskom through the 20-year power supply
agreement that EGP was awarded in October 2013 as part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) promoted by the South African Government.
In addition to Pulida, EGP was awarded the right to build the Gibson Bay (111 MW) and Nojoli (88 MW) wind farms, as well as the Aurora (82.5 MW), Paleisheweul (82.5 MW) and Tom Burke (66 MW) solar power projects, in the same tender. The company, which already owns and manages the 10 MW Upington solar facility, was also recently awarded a further 425 MW of South African wind power projects in the fourth phase of the REIPPPP.
Enel Green Power is the Enel Group company (enel.com) fully dedicated to the international development and management of renewable energy sources, with operations in Europe, the Americas and Africa. With a generation capacity equal to approximately 32 billion kWh in 2014 from water, sun, wind and the Earth’s heat enough to meet the energy needs of more than 11 million households Enel Green Power is a world leader in the sector thanks to its well-balanced generation mix that provides generation volumes well over the sector average. As of today, the company has an installed capacity of more than 9,800 MW from a mix of sources including wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass. The company has about 740 plants operating in 15 countries.
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Norway’s state-owned development fund, Norfund, plans to double or even triple its investments in Sub-Saharan Africa’s power sector by 2020, its managing director said on Wednesday. Norfund is developing hydropower in sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with Norway’s power group Statkraft, and has teamed up with Britain’s development fund CDC to invest in Globeleq Africa, a power company with an ambition to add 5 000 MW of new capacity.
“We expect to double or even to triple the capital invested in Africa by 2020, depending on the projects,” Kjell Roland, managing director of Norfund, told a conference in Oslo, which included energy ministers from Ghana and Zambia. The fund, backed by the government of the oil-rich Nordic country, has invested more than two-billion Norwegian crowns ($248.85-million) in Africa so far, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The fund is seeking to develop power projects in partnership with private investors, like Kenya’s 310 MW Lake Turkana wind power park, which will be the biggest wind park in Africa. “The project is on track to start producing power in 2016, and it should become a showcase for wind power in Africa,” Mugo Kibati, a chairperson of the project company, told Reuters. Lack of access to electricity is holding back economic development in many African countries.
“Power deficit is the biggest single issue for Ghana’s economy,” Ghana’s Minister of Power Kwabena Donkor told the conference. Sub-Saharan countries will need to invest $490-billion in power generation to reach 80% of electrification in 25 years, a study by McKinsey&Company showed. To bring investment into the power sector, African countries need to have cost-reflective electricity tariffs, clear regulations and a political will, said Adam Kendall, McKinsey’s head of power and gas in Africa. Currently only about a third of the population have access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some countries, like Zambia, only 5% of rural and 26% of the urban population have electricity.
Source: Engineering News
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