Diversity within the Energy Sector: A Context-specific Approach to Africa’s Electrical Woes

Over the last decade, renewable energy sources have become more topical and more competitive. Both at home and abroad, renewable power generation has been touted as the end of Africa’s energy hurdles. But a one-size-fits-all approach to energy fails to recognize the complexities of Africa’s ever-changing socio-economic circumstances – what works in one country cannot simply be implemented in another. Instead, a diversified, context-specific approach to power generation may be the future of energy in Africa.

To cater to the continent’s always-growing energy demands, solutions have to be cognisant of the individual countries’ potentials, issues, and natural energy resources (such as gas, for example). A bulldozer approach and insistence on green alternatives to power generation ignores context-specific nuances that would ultimately make or break a project in any particular region.

A multidisciplinary, context-focused approach is key to sustainable power generation projects, especially in under-served areas. An example of one such project is the Rural Energy Agency’s (REA) initiation of an off-grid, diversified energy solution that will deliver modern energy services to rural Tanzania. REA’s off-grid renewable energy electrification programs are unique in their dynamic approach to energy generation and distribution in rural areas.

The project began in April of 2018 and Cresco was involved in a comprehensive advisory capacity. Primarily, the Bigen Africa lead team implemented the Renewable Energy Project Development Facility (REPDF) to provide funding to project developers to prepare projects for investment. The REPDF allocates funding to eligible projects that focus on electrical development solutions in rural areas. The funds support project developers who are implementing renewable energy mini-grids in under-served communities that have previously been either unconnected or inconsistently connected to electricity. By providing thousands more Tanzanians with a stable electricity connection, REA’s project is fostering monumental economic growth and discernable improvements in locals’ standards of living.

The 2019 Africa Energy Outlook’s data on Tanzania showed that “diversifying the energy mix and improving energy efficiency are the keys to achieving economic growth while limiting growth in energy demand, with oil, gas and geothermal reducing the share of bioenergy in the energy mix.” Through diversification, REA was able to pave the way for the long-term combining of renewable energy sources in mini-grids with the country’s gas and oil power generation.

Francois Viljoen, a director at Cresco, notes that African power generation needs to be collaborative. He says, “There needs to be a shift from a competitive approach between modes of power generation to a collaborative one. No one solution is perfect for all customers; instead, we are seeing a huge rise in the demand for diverse, hybrid energy projects which combine energy mainstays like gas with renewable modes like solar.”

At Cresco, our core mission is to Enable Growth. We pride ourselves in being hands-on in our multi-faceted approach, truly committed to the success of your project, and focussed on harnessing the immense potential for growth and development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Contact us if you would like to know more about our vast project portfolio or how we can help you execute your developmental projects in the energy sector and beyond. https://www.crescogroup.africa/contact-us/