European investors are making moves across Africa’s renewable energy sector, funding a series of large-scale green hydrogen projects.
Untapped renewable energy resources, access to high demand markets and a global decarbonization agenda are seeing attention shift towards Africa’s green hydrogen and broader renewable energy opportunities. While the continent has already seen a series of large-scale projects take off in markets such as Mauritania, Namibia and South Africa, significant capital and innovative approaches for bolstering rural electrification are required to achieve universal access goals.
Ahead of the continent’s premier energy event, African Energy Week (AEW) – scheduled for October 16-20, 2023 in Cape Town – a panel discussion held during the Invest in African Energy Forum in Paris this week explored ‘Renewable Energies, Hydrogen and Decarbonization: Accessing capital and new technologies for a low-carbon future.’ Opened by Nouhou Zakaouanou, Technical Advisor, Ministry of Energy and Renewable Energies of the Republic of Niger, speakers included Thierry Lepercq, Founder & President, Hydeal; Ademola Ogunbanjo, Executive Vice President, Oando Clean Energy; Gillian-Alexandre Huart, CEO, ENGIE Energy Access; and Kelly Alexander, Managing Partner, TIGC.nl.
Despite the global shift towards clean energy solutions, much of the African continent still heavily relies on fossil fuels, with countries such as South Africa relying on coal for 80% of its power needs, 77% of Nigeria’s electricity generated from oil and gas while hydrocarbons make up 99% of Libya’s energy mix. With Africa representing the continent most impacted by climate change globally, countries are ramping up efforts to decarbonize current energy systems and capitalize on untapped renewable energy resources.
Outlining Niger’s strategy to achieving universal access to electricity, Zakaouanou stated that, “In Niger we need $500 million to reach out of access to energy. We aim to reach this goal by 2035 and given the situation, the private sector is absolutely essential to meet this goal.”
While government has a key role to play with regards to policy implementation and the creation of an enabling environment, Lepercq stated that, “What we need is to have the private sector showing the way.” He considers bankability to represent a major challenge in Africa’s pursuit of a renewable future, and that private sector players are key to addressing this challenge and getting projects off the ground.
Meanwhile, Alexander expanded on the topic of collaboration, stating that, “iI we can partner with people in the health and agriculture sectors, for example, it de-risks while providing a much more comprehensive solution to the challenges we have, unlocking development from the ground up.”
However, large-scale grid projects may not be the best solution to alleviating energy poverty in Africa, with inaccessibility in remote areas making sizeable grid -based power stations ineffective. Huart considers access to be a coordinate approach, whereby “We need a strong distribution and transportation network for electricity. By combining the two approaches of centralized methods through big assets with decentralized ways through off-grid solutions, you will increase wealth and economy of environment. If this is done well, the two will combine at some point.”
In this scenario, renewables play a key role. According to Ogunbanjo, “We are currently not at the stage of decommissioning [large-scale] coal stations and other sources because we have a gap. Therein lies the opportunity, where we can use renewables and other sources to fill the gap.”
Serving as a prelude to the Cape Town conference, the forum laid the foundation for new deals to be signed, partnerships forged and project developments kicked off during this year’s edition of AEW. Secure your spot now at www.aecweek.com
AEW 2023 is the African Energy Chamber’s annual energy event. This year’s edition takes place in Cape Town from October 16-20 under the theme, ‘The African Energy Renaissance: Prioritizing energy poverty, people, the planet, industrialization and free market.’