Access to sustainable clean energy is the key to unlocking a prosperous future for millions of people across africa – an article by Nadja Haakansson, Managing Director at Siemens Energy, Africa.
There is growing urgency to accelerate progress, not just for the future of our environment, but for the welfare of future generations. Today, Africa accounts for about 20% of the world’s population and yet more than 500 million people in Africa – almost half the population – lack access to electricity. The World Bank estimates that by 2050 the population of Africa will double, and more than half will be under 25 years old. We need to ensure that we secure the future for these generations.
Reliable energy provides the power to fulfil our potential and empower society, from providing better healthcare and education, clean, prosperous job growth, to sustainable cooling and food security. Energy is the fundamental building block for societal and economic growth.
Development in Africa will not be achieved by replicating the outdated hydrocarbon-intensive route Western economies took, but by leapfrogging ahead to sustainable, affordable, and clean technologies of the future. Africa is blessed with more abundant solar, wind and geothermal energy than anywhere else on the planet.
But each nation is at its own stage in the energy transition and each route on that journey will be different. On one hand, more than a third of Morocco’s electricity is already renewable, but on the other hand, several countries across Africa remain reliant on coal and heavy fuel oils for increasingly unsustainable, uneconomical, and unreliable power supply.
We need to develop customized roadmaps for each country, pursue pragmatic, economic solutions, and remember that this is a journey, and that 100% clean, renewable power cannot happen overnight.
A key step in the journey is to decarbonize existing power generation, and this starts with reducing coal, heavy fuel oil and diesel backup power, either by building new facilities or upgrading existing infrastructure. Gas power plants are core in the transformation process of Africa’s energy mix. Modern, highly efficient natural gas infrastructure will play a fundamental role in the transition to carbon-free solutions.
At Siemens, we are working to make this a reality. In Côte d’Ivoire, we are providing gas and steam turbines and other equipment for a new combined-cycle power plant to be built in Jacqueville. It will feature the first F-class gas turbine in Sub-Saharan Africa and be the most efficient natural gas-fired power plant in the region. In Togo, we are providing an SGT-800 gas turbine for the combined cycle Kékéli Efficient Power plant project, which will cover almost 40% of the country’s expected demand at completion, whilst creating job opportunities for Togolese citizens.
As well as providing highly efficient power, natural gas also facilitates the expansion of renewable sources, which often provide intermittent power, whilst significantly reducing the CO2 footprint when compared with more alternatives like coal or oil-fired plants. Basic infrastructure based on modern gas-fired power plants provides energy stability, flexibility, security, and modularity, and can be sustainable long-term economic solutions. We have gas turbines today that can run with up to 60% green hydrogen and by 2030 we aim to make this 100%, sustainably future-proofing today’s gas investments for decades to come.
This energy transition requires a multilateral partnership between the public and private sectors, across geographies. It also requires effective policy to be formulated to facilitate lasting private investment into the power sector, and into associated industries, to stimulate local development.
The partnership is the key to serve and energize society in Africa and we must work together now, to put in place the framework that will enable us to improve access to energy, develop jobs and skills, boost economic development, and create a sustainable future in Africa, for Africa.
About the Author: Nadja Haakansson was appointed Managing Director of Africa for Siemens Energy, on April 1, 2021. Based in Morocco, Nadja is responsible for supporting Siemens Energy’s business across the continent and developing opportunities to meet the challenges of the energy transition, while improving access to stable, affordable, and sustainable energy.
A major focus for her in the role of Managing Director is empowering women and minorities, supporting diversity, and advancing the development of local skills, talents, and industry.