Driving down costs will spur Africa’s energy sector

The price of energy in many African countries remains a key barrier to getting the 640m people without power onto the grid, according to Lekela CEO, Chris Antonopoulos.

Speaking before the start of the annual Africa Energy Forum, Antonopoulos said: “Nearly twenty years into the new millennium, power in many African countries remains three, five or even ten times more expensive than for European consumers. This discrepancy is one reason why 640 million people still lack access to affordable, consistent energy across the continent.

We need to address the continuing reliance on fossil fuels, often imported at great expense, as well as the challenges associated with inefficient infrastructure and energy transmission.”

Despite the price of renewable energy continuing to fall, only 1% of energy on the African continent was generated by wind and solar sources in 2016, according to IEA data. However, abundant wind and solar resources like those present on our project sites in South Africa, Senegal, Egypt and Ghana, mean this percentage could quickly increase.

Chris Antonopoulos continued: “African nations have some of the best renewable energy sources on the planet. We are talking about world class wind and solar resources in many cases. If we can harness these at scale and over the long-term, the energy gap can quickly be closed.

We need three things to succeed. First, we need more emulation of successful energy projects. Although there are many initiatives in progress to develop clean, reliable power in some African countries, more needs to be done to promote knowledge sharing across the continent. The more we embrace these learnings and expertise collectively, the quicker and more effective new projects are likely to be.

Second, greater access to long-term capital. It remains the case that sources of finance for infrastructure ventures in Africa are scarcer than we would like, which means that the initial hurdle of getting projects off the ground can be high. In order for the energy infrastructure targets of the African countries to be implemented, the investment volume needs to be increased by a factor of five.

Thirdly, we would like to see clearer pathways for private developers working to build energy capacity. As governments increasingly turn to the private sector for expertise in bringing energy onto grids quickly and successfully, countries’ regulatory frameworks needs to be updated and strengthened to facilitate these new ways of working.”

The Africa Energy Forum runs from 19 to 22 June. Lekela’s Chris Antonopoulos and Julian Horn are taking part in panel debates on the energy landscape in Senegal, and in North and West Africa during the event.