In line with the Govt Director of AFREC, pressing motion is required within the African electrical energy sector
Rashid Ali AbdallahThe Executive Director of the African Energy Commission (AFREC) sees the electricity sector as the main driver of economic development in Africa. He talks to James Gavin about what AFREC is doing to support the energy transition in Africa
Africa is a specialized agency of the African Union (AU) under the Commission for Infrastructure and Energy with the general aim of advancing the development and harmonization of energy policy, creating and continuously updating its database of energy statistics and mobilizing technical and financial support for the EU Energy sector in Member States and implementation of capacity building programs. AFREC is also charged with the daunting task of commercializing and integrating energy resources in the African continent.
What does AFREC see as a top priority for the African electricity sector?
As one of the main economic drivers of the continent, the electricity sector urgently needs measures and measures to ensure a safe, reliable and affordable energy supply that is necessary for the fight against poverty, securing prosperous livelihoods and the diversification of economies in line with Agenda 2063 of the African of Union is crucial.
One of AFREC’s priorities is to reshape the electricity sector at the national level and ensure that utilities become more profitable by introducing cost-reflective tariffs that allow them to keep their operations with acceptable quality of service and invest in expansion.
Other priorities for the electricity sector are the conversion of the electricity sector to the introduction of more and more renewable energies such as solar, wind, geothermal, large-scale hydropower and small-scale hydropower, as the costs of generating them from these resources have fallen dramatically in recent years and have become more competitive than conventional ones Production based on fossil fuels, which are currently widespread in Africa.
There is also a need to transform the continent’s electricity market to get more efficient lighting and appliances. According to AFREC, an estimated 60% of the electricity consumed in Africa is used by lighting, refrigerators, air conditioners, motors and distribution transformers.
It is important to convert the African electricity market to more efficient lighting and equipment through the introduction of MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) and labeling in order to lower electricity bills for consumers, free up more electricity for potential customers and lower the state fuel bills for existing power plants as well the reduction of CO2 emissions.
There is still a huge gap in energy investment that cannot be filled by governments alone. The private sector needs to be brought on board. The fourth priority is to create an environment that enables private sector participation in both off-grid and off-grid generation and to fill a significant investment gap that Africa needs to ensure universal access by 2030. Investments are also required for transmission lines and distribution networks.
AFREC’s fifth priority is to use all available energy resources for the expansion of electricity systems (renewable or non-renewable) so that Africa can diversify the energy mix in power generation to ensure sustainable development of the sector.
Particular attention should be paid to the integration of natural gas into electricity generation in Africa, as 40% of the new discoveries of natural gas in recent years worldwide have been made in Africa, mainly in Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Senegal and other parts of the continent.
Finally, we need to think about how we can create a regional electricity market.
The creation of a regional electricity market is one of the main drivers of African integration, which is part of the AU’s Agenda 2063. Cross-border trade in electricity will enable the delivery of electricity within the region from countries with resources to other countries with No. 1 power sources. To achieve this, investments in regional interconnections and the development of regional markets are required.
What programs and initiatives is AFREC undertaking, for example to harmonize the legal framework?
In 2019, AFREC developed a new strategy consisting of five programs: the African Energy Information System (AEIS), the energy efficiency program, the bioenergy program, the oil and gas program and the energy transition program.
The African energy information system came about because we believe that a lack of information is one of the main problems that constrains the African energy sector.
Since 2012, AFREC has worked with all AU member states to design and set up a comprehensive continental energy database that enables rapid dissemination and exchange of information between member states, regional economic communities and other African institutions.
With this in mind, AFREC plans to set up a Center for National Determination Contributions (NDC) to support African member states in developing or updating the NDC and determining the roadmap for the energy transition.
Another project is the energy efficiency program that AFREC is implementing together with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The program aims to develop a harmonized regional market for energy efficient lighting, refrigerators, air conditioners, motors and power distribution transformers. This will be achieved by strengthening the legal and regulatory framework for the adoption of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEPS) and labeling.
In addition, AFREC runs a bioenergy program. Bioenergy is another form of renewable energy fuel that AFREC believes is important. AFREC’s bioenergy program aims to improve the reporting and monitoring of bioenergy to improve the sustainability of these resources.
Another key program is focused on oil and gas. Africa contributes about 10% to world production and 80% of that is exported. Unfortunately, Africa is still a net importer of oil products for the obvious reason that we do not have the refining capacity. And we don’t have an infrastructure for cross-border trade.
The energy transition program aims to develop Deep Decarbonisation Pathways as the first action-oriented project to be carried out across Africa alongside South Africa. The aim is to provide a clear understanding of the short-, medium- and long-term transformations of the energy system that are required to achieve these intertwined goals under the specific conditions in Africa.
How important are new renewable energy programs for Africa? Could the progress be faster?
The focus is on promoting renewable energies. The share of renewable energies excluding large hydropower and traditional biomass is still low in many African countries, although remarkable successes have been achieved in some countries such as Morocco, South Africa and Egypt, where significant solar and wind projects have been used in recent years. However, in some countries it still accounts for less than 5% of total primary energy supply, even though the cost of renewable energy is lower compared to other energy sources.
The African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) is one of the main initiatives helping to accelerate the use of renewable energies.
How important is it to attract investment and expertise from the private sector to the energy sector? What is AFREC doing in this regard?
It is critical that private sector investment will play a key role. If you look at our energy sector, we still have 600 million Africans without access to electricity and around 900 million without access to clean cooking. These challenges offer, among other things, enormous opportunities for private capital and specialist knowledge. In addition, Africa is experiencing unprecedented growth driven by industrialization and emerging economies facing energy challenges. In this context, African countries need to transform their existing energy infrastructure and develop cleaner, more flexible, more efficient and more adaptable energy systems from the outset, based on both private investment and public capital.
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