A large proportion of the globe today is looking for ways of using green energy while slashing their carbon dioxide emissions – something which has been thrown into sharp relief by the COP26 summit.
Yet the African continent is facing a somewhat different challenge. In fact, for many Africans, gaining access to any energy at all is the primary problem, with around 600 million citizens struggling to gain reliable access to energy sources – something which prevents them from efficiently launching and running successful businesses.
Even in Nigeria and South Africa’s major cities, power blackouts are commonplace, so it isn’t too surprising that now, innovators, entrepreneurs and governments alike are striving to rectify this.
Alessandro Bazzoni is one such international businessman, who has an interest in the energy market in emerging nations. As a philanthropist, he has also invested in numerous charitable endeavors, so finding ways to improve energy access for people across Africa is high on his agenda.
“If people in Africa’s major cities struggle to reliably access the power grid,” Bazzoni says, “imagine how difficult the people in remote areas find it to get any access to power at all. We need to embrace the challenge and find ways to resolve the problem.”
The Use Of Microgrids
Microgrids are proving to be a helpful way to get specific areas connected to power supplies. These independent energy systems serve individual isolated communities, providing clean and low-cost energy that is provided by wind and solar power. This solution isn’t just sustainable and eco-friendly – it’s also a life-saver for the people who live and work in these areas since they can now launch and expand their businesses using technology that was previously unavailable to them.
The Challenge In Urban Areas
While microgrids have proved to be useful in rural communities, cities need a different solution. Around 15 million citizens are living in Nigeria’s former capital Lagos, yet despite the business of the city, its energy supply isn’t secure or stable. Even those who can access the power grid often need to use other power sources, such as diesel or petrol generators that are highly polluting and damaging to the environment.
Generators are also a costly solution.
“Nigerians are spending around $22 billion every year on generators to supply power to their homes and offices.” Bazzoni says. “It’s no wonder, then, that so many companies are now seeking solution to supply stable power which is also green.”
Natural gas is proving to be a suitable alternative, with gas-fired plants now accounting for around 80% of the electricity capacity across Nigeria. These plants are said to produce 4 times as much energy as solar plants for each acre of land used, and to be at least twice as reliable.
However, distribution and processing infrastructure is required for gas, and that means long-term investment and financing, something which is often lacking.
Investment In Energy
Although take-up is slow, more investors are starting to see the potential of investment in infrastructure and power projects on the African continent. Many of those investors are keen to exploit the potential of natural, eco-friendly resources. Alessandro Bazzoni is one such investor.
“By 2050, it’s believed that around 50% of all new energy installations across Africa will be renewable energy sources.” He says.
Bazzoni believes that eventually, solar power will be widely in use across Africa.
“Over the past 10 years, solar prices have gone down by 80%.” He points out. “Not only that, but battery prices have dropped by 85%. In combination, these things have ensured that some forms of electricity provision are pretty attractive. Africa’s most plentiful resource isn’t gas or oil – it’s sunlight!”
Bazzoni hopes that the move towards solar power in Africa won’t just ensure green energy for the continent, but also many more new jobs for citizens. It’s believed that by the end of the 2020s, 65,000,000 new jobs worldwide will be in low-carbon industries, and companies that offer training for solar-related jobs are already appearing across Africa – great news for the continent, since some African nations have seen their unemployment figures rise to 33%.
“Solar power is a new and exciting niche that is giving people opportunities as designers, salespeople, installers and wholesalers.” Bazzoni says. “It has opened a space in which people can generate their own job opportunities and provide employment for other people. This is great news, since today’s unemployment rates across Africa are increasing.”
As more money is invested into clean energy sources, Bazzoni believes that African nations may be able to resolve two problems they are suffering from in one fell swoop – minimizing their carbon footprints and generating reliable sources of energy while also creating many more employment opportunities for a new generation of workers. It’s an exciting prospect.