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Power Grid Interconnection & Clear Legal Framework Vital For African Electrification

At its World Energy Congress summit held in Istanbul this week, the World Energy Council has explained that power grid interconnection and a clear legal framework are currently critical to the far-reaching electrification of Africa.

The need to provide all Africans, regardless of economic situation, reliable access to clean and affordable electricity has been an important issue for many of us for some time. Millions of people across the African continent are living without electricity, and those who do have access are reliant upon high prices, unreliable access, or unhealthy generation sources. With two-thirds of a 1.2 billion population with no electricity, increasing their access to electricity is vital for the continent’s economic development, health, and quality of life.

As such, speaking at the World Energy Congress session entitled ‘Empowering Africa: realising the potential’, world leaders explained that power grid interconnection and a clear legal framework are absolutely vital if Africa is to gain access to reliable and affordable electricity.

And in a country with massive natural renewable resources, the opportunities are there to build just such an electricity network.

“It cannot be business as usual. We have to build the infrastructure gap quickly in power generation, transportation and distribution,” said Simon D’ujanga, Uganda’s State Secretary for Energy.

“The population is at a disadvantage,” explained Andrew N. Kamau, Kenyan Principal Secretary of Petroleum.

“That is where the opportunity actually is. That is why people should be interested. We started off in 2013 with a power penetration rate of 23%. [Out of] 80 million households, 2.3 million had connectivity. From 1922 to 2012, we only managed to connect 2.2 million customers. Between 2012 and 2016, 2.6 million customers were connected.”

“Geographically, we are lucky,” Kamau continued, referring to his country’s opportunities.

“We have a lot of volcanic activity and geothermal is a big thing. Some time next year, we will be at 100% renewable power, up from 80% at present. Natural gas as a gateway to more renewables is interesting for us but how do we fund it? Gas wells are expensive.”

“Africa is a massive place. It is 600 kilometres from one town to another. Interconnectedness is not as easy as Europeans may imagine.”

“Even in countries like South Africa, where we have had a rapid electrification process, we still have trouble accessing electricity in some areas,” added Thulani Gcabashe, Chairman, Standard Bank Group and Executive Chairman, Built Africa Holdings in South Africa. “There is a huge market to be stimulated. We need to make sure that there is sustainable, reliable and renewable power available to people.”

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