Renewable energy can play a pivotal role in bringing power to people whether in rural or remote areas. It has the potential to assist many African countries and citizens to have access to power which is essential for the reduction of poverty as well as to ensure economic growth.
There are new technologies that contribute to sustainability and a greener way of doing business. Solutions such as micro-grids for rural or remote areas where there are no other alternatives are available in Africa. These solutions address challenges such as climate change as well as access to energy.
IT News Africa spoke to Taru Madangombe, Vice President of Energy in Southern Africa at Schneider Electric who revealed a number of new technological developments in the renewable energy market, how the Internet of Things has impacted the industry as well as the future of renewable energy in Africa amongst other things.
1. What are some of the challenges that the renewable energy sector faces in Africa?
There has been a lot of developments in the renewable energy market, but in Africa, it is still a relatively new concept. If you consider that Europe and the larger parts of Asia have already been adopting this technology for a number of years, it’s understandable that we would still be experiencing some teething problems.
One of the challenges is access to funding. As the concept gains traction, we are already seeing new developments in countries like Morocco and Kenya, but there is still a challenge when it comes to financing.
The biggest trend right now is energy storage. How do you store energy harnessed during the day when most people don’t need it for consumption or for use during peak times which is normally evening and early morning. There are however new developments in the market regarding this, and there is a projection that by 2025 the costs for renewable energy technology will be reduced.
2. What sort of opportunities can the Internet of Things offer in the energy sector?
IoT and connected devices have already done a lot for power in various countries, particularly when it comes to smart grids and smart networks. Schneider Electric as a company has embraced digitisation and a number of our products and technologies are designed to help utilities as well as renewable energy producers to manage and optimise their operations.
3. Do you think government invests enough in renewable energy in Africa?
Government is prepared for this new wave in energy production, though perhaps not prepared enough. Across the continent we are seeing a lot of slow adoption, and that has mostly to do with change management and the many aspects involved when moving from traditional coal to wind and solar parks. I think that there’s also trust issue, where they need to be sure that this technology is going to work. Once we see more of the projects already signed off in action I think that there will be more buy-in from government.
4. What are the advantages of investing in renewable energy?
We believe that access to energy is a fundamental human right, and there are currently over 600 million people without access. It’s important that we make sure we create sustainable access to energy, and I think that decentralisation of the energy grid is key as it will provide that energy access to even the most remote parts of the continent. We are also facing climate change and renewable energy is the right solution to address challenges with climate change.
5. Do you think there are enough resources in Africa to deploy renewable energy in disadvantaged areas?
We have already started working with micro-grids as a solution for rural or remote areas where there are no other alternatives, so I think that we are already in a position to provide access to these communities through various renewable technologies.
6. What does the future of renewable energy look like and is Africa ready?
Africa is ready, Schneider Electric has been intentional about upskilling and developing in the area of renewables. There needs to be a continued effort to build partnerships between corporates and governments so that renewable energy solutions will continue to grow across the continent
7. What kind of renewable solutions are available currently in Africa?
The three main solutions commonly available in Africa are Solar, Wind and Biomass.
By Fundisiwe Maseko
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