Sunday, June 21, 2015

African Utility Companies Struggle to Stay on the Grid

City lights of Cape Town, South Africa, powered by Eskom electric utility. (Credit: Martie Swart/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
In South Africa, major cities are subject to regular power outages as electric utility Eskom periodically shuts down parts of its distribution system to take the pressure off the aging national grid.  Whole areas of Cape Town and Johannesburg are without power for hours at a time, a “last resort” Eskom is forced to resort to on a regular basis.

In Nigeria, the country’s biggest wireless service provider, MTN, has said it may have to shut down its services temporarily due to a shortage of diesel, with electricity production at an all-time low.

Chronic shortages of power such as these affect the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.  Almost 620 million people — 60 percent of the region’s population — lack access to electricity,  according to the African Development Bank.  Even those who in theory have access face very high prices for insufficient and unreliable supplies.  Management consulting firm McKinsey goes so far as to say the region is “starved” of electricity.

This lack of power matters:  countries with electrification rates of less than 80 percent consistently have a lower per-capita gross domestic product than other countries, and more power is crucial if Africa is to meet basic development goals.  But how the situation improves is important, too.  Should electrification focus on off-grid or on-grid solutions?  Should it prioritize fossil fuels or renewables?  What is the appropriate role for governments, regional entities, the private sector and community initiatives?  How these questions are answered will play a big role in the long-term sustainability of the region’s emerging power infrastructure as well as — thanks to implications for fossil fuel use — the well-being of our entire planet.  It also will help determine the extent to which sub-Saharan African nations can meet the greenhouse gas targets they set for themselves as part of the United Nations climate negotiations process.

Read more at African Utility Companies Struggle to Stay on the Grid

No comments:

Post a Comment