African countries want to achieve their goal of building massive amounts of new power generation capacity to anticipate surges in energy demand and put the continent on a path of growth and development.
Africa knows or she must go. The big question is How? ‘Or’ What. More precisely: what is the most economical energy balance that can be created to provide all the necessary new electrical capacities? Wind, solar, gas turbines, coal, gas engines… there are many options available, but there is only one optimal energy balance for each country.
Over the past decade, Wärtsilä engineers and analysts have used their extensive experience in the African energy sector to answer these questions in every country. In this way, we mobilized the most modern, technologically unbiased modeling techniques and took into account all local technical constraints, all available technologies and all natural resources specific to each country. Several energy balance scenarios have been developed and compared. We carefully executed the models and the numbers spoke for themselves. They show significant cost differences between the various possible energy strategies.
Billions of dollars at stake
When it comes to the choice of energy technologies, it is very important to remain open and open-minded. Technologies that may be effective in Europe, given its existing infrastructure, population density or natural resources, may not be suitable for other countries. Each country, each region must find its own optimal way to build its energy system. However, many African countries have one important thing in common: models more than anywhere else indicate that the best way to build the most cost-effective energy system is to make the most of renewable energy sources.
One fact needs to be established once and for all: the cost of renewable energy equipment has been falling very rapidly in recent years, and when such equipment is powered by Africa’s huge solar and wind resources, the cost per kilowatt-hour produced is one that makes ends meet. other technologies for power generation. Add to this the fact that most of the continent’s power systems are relatively underdeveloped, so opting for renewable energy over conventional power generation such as coal-fired or gas turbine power plants becomes a no-brainer.
While relatively ambitious renewable energy targets have been set by governments across the continent, they do not always go far enough. Contrary to what some industrialists and political leaders may believe, maximizing the amount of renewable energy that can be put into the system is by far the cheapest strategy available while still providing a stable and reliable grid.
In Africa, renewable energy must become the new baseline. Yes, renewables are fickle, but combining them with flexible power generation will ensure grid stability and save billions of dollars.
Renewable Energy Intermittency: A Fully Manageable Problem
It would be wrong to view the volatility of renewable energy sources as an obstacle. This is not the case when combined with very flexible forms of electricity generation such as gas-powered power plants.
To maintain a balanced system, flexible reserve and peak power must be available to increase generation at the same rate as wind or solar generation, and to meet fluctuating electricity demand throughout the day. Systems must be able to respond to huge daily fluctuations within seconds or minutes.
Flexible power plants are the only backup source of generation designed for this. They will ensure the safety of the system while still allowing the grid to store massive amounts of cheap renewable energy. For Senegal, for example, studies show a difference of $480 million in total system cost over the next 15 years between a system that includes a large amount of renewable energy combined with flexible gas engines and a system built on inflexible thermal generation and minimal use of renewable sources. energy. .
Renewable Energy and Flexible Gas: Two Pillars of a Winning Energy Strategy
Renewable energy and flexible gas are two pillars of a winning energy strategy for Africa. Similar studies in other African countries show that this energy balance strategy will deliver billions of dollars in efficiency gains across the continent in the coming decades.
Africa’s very ambitious renewable energy targets are not only achievable, but also represent the most sustainable and least costly strategy to successfully electrify the continent. Making smart strategic decisions will lead to more resilient power systems and greatly improve overall system efficiency.
March 19, 2022, 13:30