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African wind power struggles to gain momentum

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Africa has a gaping gap in its power provide. 600 million folks, round half of the continent’s inhabitants, lack entry to electrical energy. With out a lot sooner progress, the continent will miss the sustainable growth aim (SDG 7) of reaching common entry to electrical energy by 2030.

There are apparent benefits to filling Africa’s electrical energy hole utilizing renewable power, together with from wind. On prime of the local weather advantages, each onshore and offshore wind are more and more in a position to ship lower-cost energy than fossil fuels.

In response to the Worldwide Renewable Vitality Company, virtually two-thirds of latest renewable power capability put in in 2020 generated cheaper electrical energy than would have been out there from the lowest-cost fossil gasoline various. The price advantages have since turn out to be even bigger, owing to the large improve in gasoline prices over the previous yr.

Africa is blessed with considerable wind assets. Analysis commissioned for the IFC in 2020 discovered that the continent’s wind assets may provide its electrical energy demand 250 instances over. “It is just lately that we’ve got realised what a very good wind useful resource there’s in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Linda Munyengeterwa, the IFC’s regional trade director for infrastructure in Africa.

“In lots of areas of the continent the wind tends to blow strongest at night time and within the early morning,” she provides. “It is vitally complementary to photo voltaic which solely generates throughout the day.”

But progress in harnessing energy from winds has been restricted. The International Wind Vitality Council notes that Africa is barely utilizing 0.01% of the 59,000 gigawatts (GW) that the IFC says is offered on the continent. And in keeping with information revealed by IRENA in April, solely three African international locations – Egypt, Morocco and South Africa – have put in greater than 1 GW of wind power capability.

Logistical headwinds

“The event of a windfarm is far more sophisticated and dear than that for a photo voltaic plant,” says Vuyo Ntoi, joint-MD at African Infrastructure Funding Managers. Earlier than builders can start placing generators within the floor, they should accumulate information on the wind assets out there at a attainable website. This may be an costly and prolonged course of.

“For photo voltaic, short-term irradiation information will be readily bought (at low price) and used, whereas for a windfarm an extended programme of wind monitoring on-site on the proposed hub-height is required to underpin the venture’s bankability.”

Ntoi provides that wind is usually much less suited to smaller initiatives, a few of which can generate off-grid electrical energy, in comparison with photo voltaic. Wind, he says, “doesn’t simply lend itself to implementation outdoors of presidency led programmes,” owing to the “nature of its allowing and procurement complexity, lack of co-location potential and therefore reliance on nationwide grids, plus the necessity for scale”.

The result’s that wind developments are unlikely to proceed with no dependable off-taker. These are laborious to come back by in Africa. “There’s actual expertise of fee difficulties with financially constrained utilities throughout the continent,” says Ntoi. “Wind builders as with different power builders are loath to develop initiatives into an ecosystem with poor credit score high quality the place turbines is not going to get the contractual funds they’re entitled to.”

Lack of creditworthiness is ‘core bottleneck’

Chris Chijiutomi, managing director and head of infrastructure fairness for Africa and Pakistan at British Worldwide Funding, agrees that the shortage of creditworthiness amongst African utilities is a “core bottleneck”. One other problem, he provides, is “the overall indebtedness of African international locations, by way of governments having the ability to supply ensures that might then permit the personal sector to know that they’ll are available in an make investments.”

“The poor fiscal positions of a whole lot of international locations,” says Chijiutomi, “is now creating limiting area for them to supply sovereign ensures or letter of assist wanted to make sure contractual obligations are met.”

Along with monetary ensures, the power of many African governments to supply safety ensures can also be questionable. Patrick Edmond, senior advisor at strategic threat advisory agency Africa Issues Restricted, notes that a number of areas with good wind energy potential are uncovered to safety dangers.

“The interiors of Chad, Sudan, Niger and Mauritania are laborious to entry, and the state has very restricted presence in these distant areas,” he says. “Northern Nigeria has some potential and large demand, however main safety challenges.”

Overcoming battle

Wind venture builders in Africa, as all through the world, additionally face challenges in addressing neighborhood opposition to new amenities. Such points have been significantly intense in Kenya. A person was shot useless by police throughout protests towards a deliberate windfarm in Kinangop in 2015; the $144m venture was cancelled the next yr.

The Lake Turkana wind energy venture – the biggest in Africa – has additionally confronted sustained opposition. Final yr, a Kenyan court docket dominated that title deeds for the venture website had been acquired in an irregular method. The ruling didn’t cancel the deeds, however paves the best way for the local people to obtain compensation.

The truth that the generators that make up a windfarm are prone to be dispersed over a large space provides a layer of complexity. “In terms of wind, the websites usually are not essentially standalone, or outlined in an excellent sq. space,” says Chijiutomi. “You’re then having to cope with much more neighborhood and much more environmental and social points related to that.”

Some international locations have tried to evade the social conflicts round windfarms by prioritising offshore developments. In Africa, nonetheless, the event of serious offshore wind capability seems a distant prospect. Even South Africa, a frontrunner within the growth of onshore wind energy, has but to see vital motion in the direction of harnessing its offshore assets. Niveshen Govender, CEO of the South African Wind Vitality Affiliation, studies that the nation is unlikely to see offshore initiatives till not less than 2030.

“A number of the deterrent round offshore is extra across the capital prices,” says Chijiutomi. He cites the heavy price of “getting the set up completed offshore, however extra importantly, getting the connecting transmission strains to the place the electrical energy is required”.

In 2018, the 365 generators of Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Energy Venture stood idle for almost a yr due to delays in connecting the windfarm to the nationwide grid. (Photograph: Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Issues with grid connection maintain up initiatives

In reality, the problem of connecting generators to transmission strains can also be a significant drawback for onshore initiatives – particularly for these positioned in distant areas, removed from current grid infrastructure. “The worst factor that may occur – and has occurred in some situations – is to have the facility plant prepared however the grid connection infrastructure isn’t,” warns Chijiutomi. “Then the federal government or whoever the off-taker is, is paying for power that they’ll’t use as a result of there’s no grid connection.”

That is exactly the state of affairs that bothered the Lake Turkana venture. The windfarm itself was accomplished on schedule in 2017. However the Kenyan authorities fell behind within the development of a brand new 272-mile transmission line, after the Italian firm it had employed to construct the road went bankrupt. Electrical energy from the venture was not delivered to the grid till 15 months after the generators had been accomplished.

Classes from South Africa

The Lake Turkana venture is hardly alone amongst complicated infrastructure initiatives in dealing with delays. Certainly, regardless of its troubles, it now provides 17% of Kenya’s electrical energy era capability and was cited by administration consultants BCG as a “finest observe” instance of an power venture in Africa.

Additional insights in scaling a wind rollout come from South Africa. The event of wind energy within the nation was hamstrung for a number of years throughout the rule of its disgraced former president, Jacob Zuma. Since 2018, nonetheless, its unbiased energy producer programme has regained momentum. A dozen wind initiatives got the go-ahead that yr, adopted by one other 12 in November 2021. An additional bidding spherical kicked off simply six months later.

Perdekraal East wind farm
Perdekraal East wind farm in South Africa. (Picture: Siemens Gamesa)

The common nature of bidding rounds has confirmed key to enabling builders to attain scale and cut back prices. “With every venture procurement spherical, the tariff for wind power has decreased significantly,” Govender factors out. “Coverage shifts point out a transparent route by way of plans to acquire new era capability on an ongoing foundation, in step with the power roadmap, which sees 14.4 GW of latest wind energy over the following decade.”

Ntoi agrees that “common, predictable and repeatable authorities backed procurement might be crucial motion that may allow giant scale wind energy deployment in Africa.”

He notes that South Africa has been “programmatic, due to this fact predictable” in its method to growing the sector. “Events have developed windfarms, with all of the related prices and energy, in an effort to bid into the renewable power procurement course of. As a result of it’s a programme, builders know that there’s repeat enterprise and that in case you are not profitable in a single spherical, there might be one other to comply with.”

Export alternatives for smaller African international locations

The rising position of wind in South Africa highlights how the know-how can in the end contribute to closing the continent’s electrical energy hole. South Africa is, in fact, an outlier in the best way that its electrical energy market is significantly bigger than in most African international locations.

However, says Chijiutomi, the extension of cross-border electrical energy transmission infrastructure may permit smaller international locations to play host to large-scale windfarms. “I believe there’s additionally a chance the place a few of these international locations that perhaps have the wind useful resource, however their grid isn’t steady, they may very well be a producer of the wind useful resource and be capable to promote it to neighbouring international locations.”

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