Microgrid and off-grid home solar systems are being rapidly deployed in Africa where power utilities have failed to keep up with demand. Many Africans are still without electricity or still struggling to access electricity, especially in rural communities. The only solution to this is by introducing micro-grid energy.
While South Africa has the highest electricity consumption in the sub-Sahara region, the demand continues to outpace the installation of generation capacity. Africa is rich in renewable energy sources, which remain the most economical approach for powering microgrids. However, the development of microgrids faces several barriers that must be unpacked.
“Energy poverty is a global issue and affects especially rural areas that are too far from the main grid and are too costly to electrify by extending the main grid. Microgrids are emerging as an effective off-grid solution that can close the energy poverty gap and can supplement the existing electrification program. Further research and development is required to ensure that these systems can be applied for rural electrification and can operate autonomously within specified limits whilst maintaining supply and demand,” says Jay Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer of IMPower, a leading engineering, procurement and project management contractor (EPCM) operating in the solar and energy storage industry.
When these microgrids are combined with batteries/generators or other grid systems, they can produce or provide an affordable source of power.
“Unfortunately, the continent is trailing behind most others with regards to energy security, bringing about an increase in awareness to provide energy to the millions of African people without it. The most common challenge the African energy sector continues to face is funding for energy projects,” Mr Naidoo continues.
Many African countries have seen rapid and meaningful economic growth in the last decade, and to ensure the sustainability of this growth, these economies rely heavily on accessible, affordable and efficient energy. Urgent investment and research are required into the scalability of micro grids in rural and highly people dense areas to help prevent mass power outages such as the ongoing load shedding that has become a permanent occurrence in the South African power landscape.