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Why Electricity Matters

30,000 households in Zambia now with power

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

 

Felix International and MTN have worked together in order to provide 30,000 households and 150,000 individuals access to off-grid solar energy.

Lyndsay Handler, CEO of Fenix International, said, “The impact on our customers and their communities is transformational: household income is boosted; families are safe from dangerous and polluting kerosene; and children can complete homework after darkness falls.”

This off-grid investment goes along way in terms of providing electricity to the 69% of Zambians that do not have any form of electricity whatsoever.

However, more investment is needed, with a greater emphasis on base-load grid power generation, using fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

This is the most reliable way of providing electricity for generations to come, meaning less use of batteries, kerosene and wood-burning stoves. Giving Zambians a better quality of life overall.

The ruling Patriotic Front party in Zambia also campaigned during the 2016 elections with a pledge: “In the next five years, the Patriotic Front government shall promote investment in alternative energy sources such as thermal electricity generation from coal and nuclear reactors.”

In this year’s opening of the Zambian Parliament, President Edgar Lungu confirmed that there are plans to develop a 300MW and 340MW coal power plant, and there are also plans for hydro projects introducing a 900MW and a 2,400MW hydro power plant.

All of these projects will help to deliver the necessary infrastructure required to power Zambia and its citizens’ future. It is only with a healthy mix of both off-grid and base-load power projects will they eventually reach universal access to electricity, and provide power to the remaining 11.5 million Zambians currently left in the dark.

Bangladesh should ensure universal access before cutting its energy subsidy

By | Affordable electricity, Bangladesh, Developing Countries | No Comments

 

The Bangladeshi prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has recently confirmed that her government will be looking at removing the energy subsidy when the economy improves. But with high electricity prices and 10% of the population without any form of electricity, is this move a bit presumptive?

As previously written on Why Electricity Matters, Bangladesh has been a leading example for all developing countries to follow as they have turned around their energy access and supply in the past ten years.

Bangladesh has quadrupled its energy output since 2008, increased its power stations from 27 to 121, and has pledged to have 50% of its energy production from coal.

In spite of the improvements to the country’s energy output, there are still 16 million Bangladeshis without any form of electricity; preventing them from accessing better healthcare and better living conditions.

Before the prime minister should even start considering to remove the subsidy, she should ensure that the country reaches 100% access to electricity, meaning that the supply of electricity can equal or outstrip demand, reducing prices that ordinary Bangladeshis have to pay.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has commented that when the economy improves, she will look at removing the subsidy that helps Bangladeshis from accessing power.

Currently, the subsidy reduces the cost of power from Tk6.25 (5.7p) to Tk4.82 (4.4p) per unit.

The average wage is 13,258 taka (£120) per month and the cost of electricity and heating is 2,656 taka (£24) per month. Meaning that Bangladeshis who have access to electricity and is awarded the median wage in the country is currently paying over 20% of their salaries on electricity.

The Bangladesh government should double-down on their commitment of building new on-grid power plants as their first priority.

Only once they have achieved universal access to electricity and given all 163 million citizens this vital resource, can they then look at changing or removing the energy subsidy.

Indonesia making steady progress towards 100% electricity access

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Indonesia | No Comments

A memorandum of understanding has been signed by Indonesia Power and South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction. The understanding between both companies will create another two power units at the Suralaya Coal Fired Power Plant in Cilegon, Banten, at the cost of US$1.68 billion.

Through this agreement, an additional 1,000mw of power will be added to Indonesia’s national grid helping to connect the remaining 9% of the population without any access to electricity.

The additional power units will be using the most technologically advanced power generation using coal. Super-critical coal power stations reduce carbon emissions and improve efficiency.

In 2014, President Joko Widodo announced an ambitious target of adding an additional 35GW of power by 2019 in order to achieve a national electrification target of 97.7%.

However, as it stands the Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources reports that they have an access to electricity rate of 91.16% and the US government is sceptical that this target will be met, with predictions that only 7 to 9 GW of power will be completed within this period.

Indonesia has achieved great success in the energy market especially after it broke up their state-owned electricity company and opened up the market to private investment towards the end of 2009. But greater investment and commitment by the private sector and government is required.

The government’s National Electric Generation Plan (RUPTL) has now estimated that by 2026 the access to electricity rate will reach 99.4%. The introduction of the the two new power units at Suralaya Power Station creating an additional 1GW will significantly help to achieve this ambitious target.

Nevertheless, in order to reach the 35GW target, the Indonesian government has predicted that 5GW will be created by the state-owned company, with the remaining 30GW created by private investment. This would also create an additional 291 power plants across the 18,000 island archipelago, meaning more jobs and investment into the Indonesian economy.

Indonesia is clearly set to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of 100% energy access by 2030, and it should continue on its current trajectory.

Neighbouring nations and other developing countries should look to Indonesia for inspiration and help to provide reliable base load fossil fuel power in order to give every citizen of the world access to this vital and life-changing resource.

Hydropower has a key part to play in unlocking electricity for Africa’s 600 million

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Over 139 years has passed since the creation of the lightbulb by Thomas Edison , but yet there are over 1.2 billion people globally, and 600 million in Africa without any form of electricity, meaning no lightbulbs to do school work, working at night, or to keep them safe whilst walking the streets.

It is well known that there just isn’t enough electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. As countries and industries attempt to keep up with demand, the population rate across the continent exceeds any advances made.

The World Bank reported that between 2014 to 2016, 76 million people across Africa were connected to electricity for the first time, but at the same time the population grew by 55 million people. So the net amount of people connected was only 21 million over two years, meaning that the 600 million figure has hardly changed in the last two years.

The African Development Bank has indicated that in order for the situation to change the continent needs to expand energy generation by a minimum of 6% per year by 2040. As it stands, Sub-Saharan Africa enjoys 170GW of energy capacity, which is equivalent to that of Germany.

This needs to change.

Hydropower is one of the sources in which is being tipped to change the future for Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the region only has 27GW from hydroelectric power, but there are plans to introduce another 31GW by 2030.

Most countries that make up the region have long heavy flowing rivers in which they are turning towards to create dams in order to generate vital electricity.

But, the UK think tank, the Grantham Institute, has indicated that hydropower alone will not secure the continent’s future due to concerns over flooding or droughts.

Angola, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan have all pledged to increase their hydropower energy capacity, as has Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This includes two more units at the 2,070MW Lauca hydropower station, the largest of its kind in Angola.

Hydropower appears to be one of the main sources that will help power Africa’s future, but it is pertinent to not only just invest in this source of electricity. Africa as a continent is resource rich with the likes of oil, gas and coal.

With a healthy combination of all of these types of power generation sources, Africa and in particular, Sub-Saharan Africa will be able to provide electricity to the remaining 600 million people who desperately need this life-changing resource.

Mobile phone connections are more common than electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

How is it that there are more people in Sub-Saharan Africa with a mobile phone connection than any form of electricity? Over 700 million people across the region have a mobile phone, whereas only 450 million Africans have access to reliable electricity.

There are just under 600 million Africans without any form of power whatsoever, and there are now energy startups making a real difference to provide power to those without it. One of these companies is called Bboxx.

Bboxx ‘provides affordable, clean energy to off-grid communities in the developing world‘  and they have the ambition to electrify 20 million people over the world by 2020.

Their business model allows for customers to pay for electrification packages. These are a few dollars each month and provides solar panels, batteries and high-efficiency appliances to create their own off-grid electrical power.

Bboxx can work as an off-grid power source or can be complemented by on-grid base-load power for larger home appliances, such as fridges and televisions.

They are working with national governments across Africa to fit energy packages to households in the most remote parts of the continent, where on-grid power just cannot reach.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has asked Bboxx to supply 2.5 million connections to its off-grid citizens by 2020, and Togo has signed a contract for over 300,000 solar home kits by 2022.

Off-grid power is becoming more common across Sub-Saharan Africa and with companies such as Bboxx leading the way, it is only a matter of time until Africa reaches universal access.

Notwithstanding, off-grid power works very well in remote communities and villages, but Sub-Saharan African governments need to focus on providing cheap, affordable and reliable power by pushing for more public and private investment in coal, gas and oil power projects to set a sustainable base-load for all of their citizens.

Bangladesh is a key example of transforming their electricity output, having quadrupled their supply in the last ten years, meaning another 299 million Bangladeshis now have access to electricity.

It is only a matter of time until Sub-Saharan Africa follows suit.

First super-critical coal power plant almost completed in the Philippines

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Phillipines | No Comments

The Philippines is about to add another 455MW coal-fired power station to its energy mix, pushing energy access to the remaining 2 million Filipinos that are currently left in the dark.

The San Buenaventura Power Plant in Mauban, Quezon, will be using the newest form of technology to help drive-down carbon emissions from coal power stations, the first of its kind in the Philippines. The 455MW plant has been fitted with supercritical technology, which helps to improve the efficiency of the power plant and reduce its overall carbon emissions.

The project is due to be completed in the next couple of months with an expected start date of producing electricity in early 2019.

As it stands, the World Bank reports that the Philippines currently enjoys an access to energy rate of 91%, meaning that there are still over 2.36 million households without any form of power, preventing businesses from growing, schools from teaching and Filipinos from being safe at night.

In spite of this, it is difficult to power the Philippines as they have over 7,600 islands, preventing on-grid power from reaching the most remote areas. However, the government has ensured that with the reducing costs of renewable energy, it will place a bigger emphasis on setting up off-grid networks for the harder to reach islands, enabling all of its citizens to receive the power they are entitled to.

In 2016, the Duterte government set out a national roadmap from 2016 to 2040 as a plan to reach universal energy access and to develop a sustainable energy system within the Philippines. As it stands, the energy mix of the country accounts for: coal (30%), hydro (20%), geothermal (10%), diesel (20%), natural gas (15%), and wind/solar (5%).

The government has included in its plan an ambition to increase its energy capacity by 19,000MW by 2040.

The Philippines is on a path to create a secure energy mix, but in order to reach the most remote islands, more emphasis will need to be placed on mini-grids supported by renewable technology, but backed up by a strong base load power from the country’s oil, gas and coal power plants.

The introduction of their new supercritical coal power plant next year will help to achieve their energy targets, and to provide electricity to the 2.3 million households currently left in the dark. But how will the government secure the extra 19,000MW needed to power its future?

East Africa is powering its own future

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Kenya | No Comments

The World Bank’s recent ‘Progress on Global Energy Goals‘ report has singled out East African countries for their progress and success in energy access. Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have all achieved a year on year 3% increase in energy access from 2010 to 2016.

But, this is not enough to help achieve worldwide universal access by 2030; one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As it stands, over 1.1 billion people, 13% of the world’s population, do not have any form of electricity, and on the current trajectory by 2030 an estimated 674 million people will still be without electricity altogether. How can wealthy nations accelerate current projects to ensure we reach the UN goal?

We need to increase the base-load of power. This should come from both fossil fuels and renewable technology, but we should always prioritise on-grid power. This is vital to power the 87% of rural communities that are currently left in the dark.

It is unfair that rural communities are being left behind, with most of them located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia. How are they expected to run their businesses, power their shops or help to deliver education to their children?

Tanzania is an example of an East African country that is powering itself towards universal access. With help from the African Development Bank (AfDB) over $200 million has been invested in their power sector, helping to connect over 130,000 people and 18,000 businesses to the national grid.

With a significant amount of inward investment into Tanzania, they have set an ambitious target of producing over 10,000MW of electricity by 2025. They currently only have an installed capacity of 1,264MW,  with an energy access rate of just 32.8%.

Investment needs to increase in fossil fuel base-load projects otherwise we will not reach the 2030 target of universal electricity, especially with an increasing population.

Rwanda promises access to electricity to over 6 million citizens by the end of the financial year

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

 

The Rwandan government has recently signed new contracts with energy agencies across the country in order to reach their target of an additional 6% of Rwandans connected to a power supply by the end of the financial year. This would increase access from the current 45% to 51%.

Electricity is the backbone of every country, as without it businesses would be unproductive, schools couldn’t teach and the economy would grind to a halt. Everyone across the world needs access to power in order to live their lives, and Rwanda is on the right path to securing it for all of their citizens.

Their target means that over 134,000 new households will be connected to the national grid and a further 68,000 households will be connected to off-grid power supplies.

Rwanda currently only produces 209MW, mostly from hydro and thermal power, leaving over 8 million out of the 12.5 million Rwandans without any form of electricity.

The government is heading in the right direction with a pledge to transform itself into a middle income country with universal access of electricity for all of its citizens by 2024. The plan is to split electricity access to 52% being connected to the grid and the further 48% rural communities being connected to off-grid technology.

However, Rwanda is six years off of its target for universal access to electricity, but more investment is required to strengthen their transmission networks to eradicate power outages, and more investment is required for power generation to connect an additional 8 million citizens to the grid.

By building more power plants, Rwanda would exceed its target of 512MW base-load power supply by 2024, and by focusing on cheaper reliable sources of power, this would enable the government to reach their target of universal access before 2024. However, without any further investment, Rwanda will be left behind compared to its neighbours in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mini-grids will not power Africa alone by 2030

Mini-grids will not power Africa alone by 2030

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries | No Comments

Powering Africa and the developing world is a worldwide priority for developed countries and mini-grids are a suitable option for the most remote parts of the continent. However, mini-grids alone will not bring light and prosperity to all Africans.

The Africa Mini-grid Developers Association (AMDA) are in the process of launching a project to help up-scale mini grid projects across Africa. They require over $187 billion between now and 2030 to help reach universal energy access to electricity. In addition to this, the International Energy Agency has said that a separate amount of $391 billion will be required to fund on-grid technology alongside off-grid.

Off-grid technology is important to the future of the continent, but at such an expense it ought to be reconsidered as it will account for 48% of the total needed to invest in Africa to reach universal access by 2030.

Currently 600 million sub-Saharan Africans – two-thirds of the entire population – are without any form of electricity. Both on-grid and off-grid investment is needed but should it be at such an expense in the form of unreliable and costly renewable technology?

There is a general consensus agreed by the United Nations and 193 countries that every nation should reach universal energy access by 2030, but it is unlikely to be achieved in sub-Sahara Africa by this time.

India is an example of a country that has focused on universal energy access by using natural resources, prioritising giving electricity to all of its citizens before looking into alternative renewable technology. This has ensured that India is now on the cusp of achieving 100% access for all of its citizens in the next few years, way before the 2030 ambition.

Countries across Africa need to follow India and focus on promoting all forms of energy, both on and off-grid. However, it is vital that it is done in a way that does not mean a huge expense for relatively little reward in terms of energy generation.

African countries should prioritise the natural resources that each country harnesses and produce enough electricity so that their citizens can cook their dinner, read a book, walk the streets at night, enjoy their education, and so that they can run their own businesses. By improving energy access, you improve the economy of developing countries, and the lives of all of their citizens.

Bangladesh is a leading example of how electricity access can power development

Bangladesh is a leading example of how electricity access can power development

By | Bangladesh | No Comments

Bangladesh are becoming world leaders in developing their own national grid, with a continuing commitment to provide universal access to electricity for all of their citizens.

In the last nine years, the Bangladesh Power Development Board have almost doubled the number of Bangladeshis with access to electricity, with over 90% access to the national grid.

In the same time-span, the Bangladesh government have quadrupled the national power supply from 3,268mw in 2009 to 11,059mw in 2018; over 299 million residents now have an electricity supply; and the number of power plants have increased from 27 to 121.

Bangladesh is setting a shining example of how a developing country should priortise access to electricity for all of its citizens.

Rather than prioritising expensive renewable technology, the government has focused on base-load power such as gas and coal to provide constant uninterruptible power. The government in Bangladesh has a commitment to generate over 50% of its total electricity supply from coal-based power plants by 2030.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has also expressed support for renewable energy with a target of 2,000mw of renewable energy by 2021, but it is clear that base-load power is the priority in order to give universal access to electricity.

Bangladesh is on course to reach universal electrification within the next decade, which will put the country on a trajectory towards a fully-developed nation.

This underlines an approach that all developing nations should follow: prioritising grid-level electricity supply as a means to give all citizens the ability to keep their lights on, power their businesses, and in turn allowing the economy to grow pulling the poorest in society out of poverty.