How to encourage investment in Africa’s energy sector

The Guardian’s expert panel suggests how African governments can attract foreign investors to energy projects.

Prioritise the energy sector: Political will goes beyond campaign speeches and rhetoric, governments need to figure out how to fund this sector. They need to look at public private partnerships (PPP), accessing international capital and debt capital markets, foreign parternships such as Power Africa and also tapping into the diaspora. Jacqueline Musiitwa, founder, Hoja Law Group, Kigali, Rwanda @nubiancounsel

Approach it from all angles: There is no monopoly on the way to develop power infrastructure. It can vary from off-grid to mini-grids to on-grid, from small-scale to large-scale, from government-owned, to private-sector, to community-owned. Oliver Johnson, research fellow in sustainable energy, Stockholm Environment Institute, Nairobi, Kenya @SEIresearch

Don’t neglect existing power plants: It can cost less to upgrade and refurbish existing, inefficient and “dirty” power plants [than build new ones]. Showing you have the capacity to strengthen existing infrastructure will build investors’ confidence for bigger projects. Christina Ulardic, head of market development Africa Swiss Re Corporate Solutions Zurich, Switzerland, @SwissRe_CS

Support intra-regional trade: Currently trade between African countries is very low – an estimated 10-12% of the continent’s total trade. Over 80% of Africa’s exports are shipped overseas, mainly to the EU, China and the US. But we can’t discuss increasing intra-African trade before we discuss restrictive immigration policies. Christina Ulardic

Reduce the red tape at borders: For trade facilitation, governments need to update their valuation of goods so that essential items, such as generators, don’t get stuck in customs. Preclearance of goods is essential. Andrew Herscowitz, coordinator, President Obama’s Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives, Power Africa, Washington DC, @aherscowitz

Tell more positive stories: African governments and media need to be more proactive in sharing their successes in energy and development. These need to be backed up with data on returns, challenges that are surmountable and also demonstrate impact for competitiveness and inclusive development. Jacqueline Musiitwa

Strengthen project management: Currently many African governments have poor project appraisal systems, a high degree of informality and an absence of effective management. They are also often subject to undue political influence for personal or political gain. Where this occurs there is a high risk for potential corruption and mismanagement and it will dissuade the private sector from investing in this market. John Hawkings, programme manager, Construction Transparency (Cost), London, UK, @costransparency

Ask potential investors what the obstacles are: We ask our partners what the critical barriers are that hinder your project or prevent your investment. We then try to work with the partner government to focus on resolving that particular issue. Once that barrier is broken down for one deal, it opens the door for others. Andrew Herscowitz

Encourage financing of PPP projects: Governments need to develop capacity, firstly to meet equity and debt financing needed by infrastructure projects, and secondly, to effectively manage the PPP process. The Henri Konan Bédié Bridge in Abidjan was the result of an excellent partnership between the state and private capital because every stakeholder took on and managed their share of risk. Professor John C. Anyanwu, lead research economist, African Development Bank, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire @jcanyanwu

Tap into the diaspora: Not enough governments look at their own citizens and diaspora to fund large projects. Apart from offering incentives to come home and provide much needed skills, diaspora bonds – government bonds targeted at a country’s diaspora – are a useful instrument. John Anyanwu

Use early investments to illustrate that projects are viable: Better preparation is key for leveraging private capital as financiers are often reluctant to invest when projects are still in their high-risk initial stages. Lida Fitts, regional director (acting), Sub-Saharan Africa, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Washington, DC, USA @ustda 

Don’t compromise on quality: The most qualified bidder must win the bid and price alone shouldn’t be selling point. As we are seeing with many of the new roads in the region, cheap is expensive in the long run because roads get potholes after a rain season or two. Jacqueline Musiitwa

Push for open contracting: This would help with transparency of the contracting process. If the public were privy to deal information, it would ensure greater accountability and push governments to ensure that winners of bids adhere to struck construction timelines. Jacqueline Musiitwa

Create cost-reflective tariffs: The tariff should compensate the investor for the cost of construction, maintenance and the cost of fuel. This is crucial to keep the investor on board for the whole of the project’s life. David Humphrey, global head power and infrastructure, Standard Bank, Johannesburg, South Africa

Demand change: Transparency on its own is insufficient. It really requires the local media and civil society to use that information to demand change such as in Ethiopia and MalawiJohn Hawkings

Read the full Q&A here.

Source: The Guardian


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In the debate over water scarcity, it’s time to think solar

With more than 780 million people lacking access to potable water and 1.3 billion people lacking access to electricity, sustainable water and energy production is critical to our planet’s future. It is in this context that leaders from around the world are gathering at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, to address the water-energy nexus and its effect, elevating this important discussion to the global agenda.

According to the International Energy Agency, energy production accounts for 15 per cent of the world’s total water withdrawal – defined as water withdrawn from a groundwater source – which amounts to an estimated 580 billion cubic metres of fresh water per year. Thermoelectric power plants already account for over a third of fresh water withdrawal in the United States, where the volume is even more than the water used for agriculture, and in Europe.

There is no doubt that the water-energy nexus is real and of particular concern to water-scarce regions, such as the Middle East. The fact of the matter is that most energy generation technologies — including coal, nuclear and even concentrating solar power – consume tremendous amounts of water during operations, for processes such as fuel extraction, cooling and cleaning.

As our energy needs continue to grow, so will our use of water to generate it. The World Bank predicts that while global energy consumption will increase by 35 per cent by 2035, water consumption will increase by 85 per cent during the same period.

Looking at it in the context of energy demand in the Middle East, which has some of the highest per capita water and energy consumption rates in the world, the management of water resources will be critical to driving growth in the country’s generation capacity.

Water is a finite resource and its use in electricity production should be managed through diversified power generation that minimises water usage.

Sunlight, on the other hand, is an abundant resource and can help mitigate some of the effect on our water resources. Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is one of only two electricity generation technologies with comparatively negligible water consumption.

PV energy systems provide a sustainable solution to the water-energy nexus by generating clean electricity with little to no water use. Most of the water consumed at solar plants is used to ensure that workers on-site stay hydrated.

On a life cycle basis, PV also consumes less water than most other power generation sources, including hydrocarbon-based technologies and biofuels, in the production process.

With the smallest carbon footprint, lowest life cycle water use, and fastest energy payback time in the industry, thin-film PV modules provide a sustainable solution to water scarcity and energy security.

While a power portfolio that completely excludes thermal generation is an unrealistic expectation at this time, the reality is that water conservation needs to remain a priority. As world leaders and decision makers meet in Abu Dhabi this week, it will also be important for them to attempt to respond to the issue in terms that will deliver tangible results.

Source: The National 


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Sweden’s greenest City Hall is topped by solar panels and a green roof in Lund

Christensen & Co Architects recently completed the first phase of Lund’s City Hall, a building that when complete, will be the greenest City Hall in all of Sweden. Designed with a pleated W-shaped plan, the building’s curtain walls bring in natural light and offer views out towards the landscape. The City Hall is located at Lund’s historic city center and will host 269,000 square feet of office space, conference facilities, a public ground floor, and accessible green roof.

Equipped with solar panels and earth water cooling, Lund City Hall only uses a fraction of the energy normally consumed by typical government buildings. Its dynamic, W-shaped facade was key in reducing the building’s energy footprint, and each facade is carefully oriented to optimize passive technologies and solar heat gain. The north-facing facades are completely glazed to maximize natural lighting indoors, while the south-facing facades are covered with dynamic solar-control panels that respond to daylight conditions. The facades facing the city center are designed with classical features to match region’s historic character.

The accessible green roof also plays a big role in making Lund City Hall energy efficient. In addition to sequestering carbon, the green roof helps regulate internal temperatures, store rainwater, and provide natural habitat for local flora and fauna. The green roof also acts as an extension between the neighboring new park and the adjacent historic city center.

Source: Inhabitat


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South African DOE Awards SolarReserve Concentrating Solar Power Project

The South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded preferred bidder status for a 100 megawatt (MW) Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) project to SolarReserve and International Company for Water and Power Projects (ACWA Power). The project was developed in response to the DOE’s Round 3 (CSP) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP). The Redstone Solar Thermal Power project, with the lowest tariff bid to date from any CSP project in the country, is scheduled to achieve financial close later in 2015 and commence operations in early 2018.

The first of its kind in Africa, the Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project features SolarReserve’s molten salt energy storage technology in a tower configuration. According to SolarReserve, the 100 MW project with 12 hours of full-load energy storage will be able to reliably deliver a stable electricity supply to more than 200,000 South African homes during peak demand periods.

Fueled completely by the sun, with no back up fuel required, the project also features dry cooling of the power generation cycle as an important element to minimize water use. The project technology will be based on SolarReserve’s successful Crescent Dunes project in the U.S., which is complete with construction and currently in final commissioning.

“The Redstone project marks an important technology advancement for South Africa in solar power,” said SolarReserve’s CEO Kevin Smith. “Due to the fully integrated thermal energy storage, the plant will provide dispatchable power on-demand, just like conventional coal, oil, nuclear or natural gas-fired power plants, but without the harmful emissions or hazardous materials and without any fuel cost. In addition, the project’s delivered electricity price is the lowest of any Concentrating Solar Power project in the country to date.”

The Redstone Solar Thermal Power Project will be located in Postmasburg, near Kimberley in the Northern Cape Province, adjacent to the 75 MW Lesedi and 96 MW Jasper photovoltaic (PV) solar power projects successfully developed by SolarReserve and its investment partners. Together, the three projects comprise the world’s first combined CSP and PV solar park with a total of 271 MW of generating capacity.

“This Redstone Solar Project together with our 50 MW Bokpoort CSP project in South Africa and the Noor1, 160 MW solar thermal power plant at Ouarzzate in Morocco, extends ACWA Power’s success in solar energy on the African continent,” added Paddy Padmanathan, president and CEO of ACWA Power. “All aspects of the project, from development phase to construction and then operations, have been structured to ensure maximization of value retention in not just only the South African economy, but also within the local economy of Northern Cape Province recognizing the intrinsic value in co-developing local people along with this asset which will co-exist with the local community for decades to come.”

Source: Domestic Fuel


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East African Countries Move to Adopt Renewable Energy Technologies

The East African region is leading the continent’s charge to embrace renewable energy, including solar, geothermal and wind power.

Department of Environmental Affairs’ Energy-smart building impresses

The officials have moved in and President Jacob Zuma has officially opened the Department of Environmental Affairs’ new “green” building headquarters.

It’s the first government building to achieve a 6 Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of SA and is regarded as a landmark in energy efficiency.

It’s a public-private partnership between the department and Imvelo.

The developer is Imvelo Concessions, which comprises Old Mutual, Kagiso Tiso Group, Wiphold and Aveng Grinaker-LTA. The facilities manager is Imvelo Facilities Management – a joint venture between Old Mutual Property and Dijalo Property Group.

Construction started in July 2012 and finished in May this year, the department moved in in August and the official opening was last month.

The new building is on the corner of Soutpansberg and Steve Biko roads in Pretoria.

Photovoltaic cells line the roof; grey water is treated on site to use in the air-conditioning system, toilets and for watering the gardens; lights automatically light up or dim when people move in or out of an area; automatic sensors open and close windows depending on the temperature; there’s a huge “green wall” of plants at the entrance; and the department’s electric cars can be plugged into a solar power station to recharge.

The building provides 30 654 square metres of space.

Overall energy consumption is expected to be less than 115kWh per square metre a year (any higher than that is for the private partner’s cost), and solar power provides about 10 percent of the power and the City of Tshwane the rest.

At last month’s opening, Green Building Council chief executive Brian Wilkinson welcomed the new structure, saying green building was possible and made commercial sense. He said the building was one of only three 6-star buildings in South Africa.

Wilkinson said green buildings saved on average 34 percent on electricity bills, 48 percent on water and 50 percent on waste to landfill sites.

Zuma said the building showed a commitment to lower emissions and a commitment to the green economy.

“The Department of Environmental Affairs is walking the green talk,” Zuma said, adding this should encourage others to follow suit.

Source: IOL

#cocreateSA Fund awarded to nine South African-Dutch sustainability projects

Nine projects addressing sustainability issues including water management, healthcare, solar energy and transport have been awarded over half a million Rand as part of the #cocreateSA Fund. An initiative of the Dutch Consulate General, the fund is the legacy of its World Design Capital 2014 programme, Department of Design.

“With Department of Design we took a valuable step toward introducing South African and Dutch partners who can work together to find solutions for local challenges,” said Dutch Consul General, Bonnie Horbach. “With this fund we show our commitment to strengthening those relationships.”

Awarded projects include a partnership between the City of Cape Town and the Dutch Water Research Institute to implement water management programmes and improve service delivery. South African start-up EWIZZ and Dutch companies SANEC and SolarSwing were awarded for their programme to create an affordable, zero-emissions transport for students.

An initiative to develop solar lighting solutions for the communities of Witteklip, Shamrock and Fitches Corner in the Eastern Cape also received funds, as a collaboration between Africa Foundation for Sustainable Development and Dutch technology firm Solar Works.

Merging healthcare, design and technology, a co-create health initiative between the Cape Craft and Design Institute and Dutch company Philips aims to use design-thinking to build relationships between local health departments, healthcare workers and a range of social scientists and designers.

The Dutch World Design Capital programme, Department of Design was held over three weeks in July in Cape Town. It brought together South African and Dutch partners in design and sustainability for workshops, roundtables and keynote events. It was attended by locals, and community members including Premier Helen Zille and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

A commitment to strengthening the relationships that began at Department of Design, the #cocreateSA Fund was open to applicants from South African-based projects that involved collaboration with a Dutch partner and addressed issues covered during the programme.

Further strengthening the #cocreateSA legacy, Horbach has announced a second round of funding to be available from 2015. This brings the total investment from the Netherlands in #cocreateSA to more than R5m, making it the largest foreign contributor to World Design Capital 2014.

The Netherlands is South Africa’s third largest EU-trading partner and second largest investor in terms of stock after the United Kingdom. It is also the largest importer of goods from the Western Cape, worth R6.8bn and the third largest investor in that area totalling R2.7 billion.

Source: Cape Business News


Rome University takes first place in Solar Decathlon Europe 2014

For years the prophets of the heralded ecology age have been drawing our attention to the potential of south European countries in terms of solar energy. Thus it was probably high time that a team from a country bordering the Mediterranean won a Solar Decathlon Europe event for the first time, as happened this year. And never before had it been such a close finish, not since 2002, when the very first Solar Decathlon took place under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. In the end no less than three points – from a total of 840 – stood between the winning team from the Università degli Studi Roma Tre and the squad from Delft University of Technology at third place.

The project „RhOME for Dencity“ was the overall winner in Versailles.
The project „RhOME for Dencity“ was the overall winner in Versailles.

For those who have never visited a Solar Decathlon before, the event can probably best be described as a mixture of student workcamp, architecture exhibition and open-air building and construction fair. The unique atmosphere and the opportunity to showcase the prowess of one’s university to the world public still motivates countless students and professors to devote two years of their lives to participation in the event. From applying to take part and developing a concept through drawing up the detail design to looking for sponsors and organising transportation, this is how long the preparatory phase takes until the dawning of the two-week on-site competition phase.

Be that as it may, and despite all enthusiasm and the opportunity for public exposure, there has been much pondering in recent times about the meaning of the Solar Decathlon. As is asked, what exactly is so future-oriented about planning and building a detached home for two even if it meets all its energy needs with solar power? Thus it is to the credit of the organisers in Versailles that they modified the competition rules originally formulated in 2002. This time the search was not for single-family residences that generate a maximum of solar power under the climatic conditions of the competition venue, but answers to burning urban development, social and ecological problems in the countries that the university teams hailed from. Moreover the students were to take global, future-oriented sustainable construction issues into consideration, such as urbanisation and settlement consolidation, the interlocking of architecture and mobility, affordable construction and sparing use of resources and energy.

From industrial loft to row house upgrading
The design teams responded to the challenge with a wealth of ideas, whereby the fact that the Solar Decathlon involves ten categories almost became an afterthought – at the presentation of their buildings, few of the teams put emphasis on technology but on architecture and urban development concepts. The houses also called for bit of imagination on the part of the beholder: presented in single-family house format for space, cost and time reasons, the buildings mainly consisted of prototypes standing for a more far-reaching concept.

The winning project from Rome consists of a wooden apartment for the top floor of a multi-family housing project, and if an investor can be found could one day be realised on the periphery of the Italian capital. The runners-up from Nantes, France, presented a concept for breathing new life into a late-19th-century industrial building in the French city’s port area with a mix of housing and greenhouse. Delft University of Technology even reconstructed the row house of the grandparents of one of the team members to demonstrate their concept of how buildings could be made more energy-efficient with solar energy. And no less than five teams, including the Berlin one at fourth place, presented attic conversions or roof remodelling solutions for existing buildings.

There was no lack of interesting ideas even in the houses that did not make it to the top places in the competition: the students from Chile and Japan examined concepts for housing reconstruction after storm surges and earthquakes, and their colleagues from Mexico City designed a low-budget modular system that takes the particular climate and chronic water shortages of the Mexican capital into consideration for shanty town inhabitants. Affordability was also the main focus of the south European teams: the students from Sant Cugat near Barcelona – winners in the “Architecture” category – presented a very simple building basically consisting of a structural framework system and a polycarbonate skin. After the competition is over, the building is to be placed at the disposal of a community in the Catalonian hinterland, whereupon the residents can then decide on how it is to be used – the structure is so flexible in design it could act as a community centre, supermarket or workshop building.

Regionalism meets high-tech
If Kenneth Frampton had not coined the term “critical regionalism” back in the 80s, someone else would have to do so today to describe the design attitude of the student teams participating in the Solar Decathlon. But only in a very few cases were the projects concerned with a direct reinterpretation of traditional architectural forms. Rather, the regionalism on view reflected a precise analysis of the challenges that cities and rural regions face today in differing parts of the world. And these challenges are completely different to those of 100 or 200 years ago. In this the projects in Versailles breathed new life into the well-worn slogan “think globally, act locally”.

The result was a veritable world’s fair of young architecture in which rivalry about energy budgets, indeed about the comparability of the houses, faded into the background – and this is to be seen in a very positive light. Yet the organisers ought to put more thought to the public exposure of their event; Versailles may be redolent in history but anyone seeking to kindle mass enthusiasm for green building at the next competition would be well advised to seek a venue with more public appeal, one in a downtown location as in Washington and Madrid in the past.

Retrieved Tuesday, 05 August 2014