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Affordable electricity

Trump planning to use former coastal military bases to export coal and gas to Asia

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US President Donald Trump is looking at using former military bases on the west coast of the United States of America in order to export gas and coal to Asia.

The administration hopes install gas and coal ports on federal facilities as part of Trump’s agenda to promote America’s ‘energy dominance’ across the world.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said: “it’s in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities.”

US coal exports to Asia doubled in 2017, with over 23 million tonnes was exported to Asia from through 2018 to June, with Japan, China and South Korea being the biggest importers of US coal.

Developing countries deserve the right to use fossil fuel-based energy generation, just as all developed countries have done so in the past and continue to do so today. This development by the Trump administration shows the US’s commitment to promoting energy access Asia and the rest of the world.

Every person across the world deserves access to energy, and every country needs to have a strong and secure baseload of power.

New supercritical coal power plant coming soon to Bangladesh

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

The new power project will cost over US$2.5 billion and supply an additional 1,320MW to the national grid. Currently, only two-thirds of Bangladeshis have access to power, but this is predicted to substantially increase by 2030.

This coal power plant will be ultra-supercritical, which means that it will be 43% more efficient than conventional coal power stations, emitting fewer emissions whilst producing more electricity.

The Bangladesh government plans to exceed expected demand of 34,000MW by 2030, but current supply stands around 13,000-17,000MW mark. Added to this, just under 60 million Bangladeshis still currently lack any form of power whatsoever.

It is welcome that the government is pushing for a more coal-based electricity grid with an ambitious target of 50% electricity production from domestic and international coal sources by 2030.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reported in 2015 that there are 52 upcoming power generation projects across the country, either in development, under construction or in the planning phase. Once all 52 are complete, it will provide an additional 18,000MW of power to the national grid.

This new supercritical power station will go along way in increasing the country’s electricity output, as will the other 52 projects under development or construction.

Only by giving Bangladeshis power, will the country achieve their overall goal of being a middle-income country and improving the standard of living in the country.

World's largest clean-coal power station to open in Egypt

World’s largest clean-coal power station to open in Egypt

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A 7 gigawatt coal power station is to be built near the Egyptian town of Hamrawein and is due to be completed by 2024. This will be the world’s first biggest clean-coal power plant using new ultra-supercritical technology in order to cut emissions and improve efficiency.

The project will cost US$4.4 billion and will be funded by both Chinese and Egyptian banks. It will be located 600 kilometres south-east of the capital, Cairo.

Egypt has enjoyed 100% access to electricity for many years, but the country has experienced significant blackouts in the past decade due to an increase in demand by consumers and businesses.

Consumption has increased from 60.5 terawatt hours in 2000 to 164.2 terawatt hours in 2017. Likewise, the energy output of the country has increased from 15GW in 2000 to 42GW in 2017.

Of the current 42GW capacity, 91% is produced using fossil-fuels and the remaining amount comes from renewable technology. Of the renewable technology over 77% is hydropower, a source which the Egyptian government can no longer expand due to a lack of capacity at hydro sites.

This new coal power plant will be the first in the country, as Egypt currently relies on gas power plants to produce most of its energy output.

The Egyptian government has predicted that an additional 54GW of power will need to be added to the national grid by 2022 in order to keep up with demand.

This coal plant along with plans to develop nuclear power and renewable technology in the country will help to achieve their ambitious goal of almost doubling their energy output.

Egyptians are as entitled to cheap, reliable and consistent electricity just as much as everyone else across the world. With over 100 million people in Egypt alone, the government need to ensure that supply keeps up with demand or blackouts will reappear.

Professor Rosemary Falcon of Wits University in South Africa commented on the new ultra supercritical coal project. She said, “A country like Egypt, with nearly 100 million people, needs a lot of base-load power that doesn’t go off.”

The professor also commented on how new coal technology is less of a problem with pollution to day, than it was in the past.

“Those days are thankfully behind us with the new clean technology. We can now burn it with close to zero emission and I look forward to following the project in Egypt,” Professor Falcon said.

This project is a worthwhile investment for the country. The government’s decision to invest in base-load power will ensure every Egyptian can access reliable and affordable electricity.

World’s poorest countries demand more flexibility on tackling energy poverty

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Desperately poor countries are losing the fight against electricity access. As it stands, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to half of all people without reliable power, a terrifying 590 million, which will grow to 674 million by 2030 if action isn’t taken fast.

The UN’s Group of Least Developed Countries, 47 of the poorest countries in the world, predominately from Africa, will put pressure on rich countries to do more to assist with electrification.

At the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, these LDCs were promised $100 billion by 2020 in funding to assist climate finance projects. However, it has been revealed that only $3.5 billion has actually been committed to projects.

Pressure is already mounting on big aid organisations, such as the World Bank, to move away from their narrow view that only renewables are the answer to the world’s energy woes.

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, slapped down the charity Christian Aid over their consideration of funding fossil fuel power stations.

He told of the anger felt by many African leaders who were forced to take responsibility over climate change despite putting “almost none of the carbon in the air”, yet are told they cannot use certain fuels to provide reliable “base-load electricity.”

Clare Shakya, a director at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), also believes that the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are often forced into accepting finance for energy projects that are not fit for purpose.

Speaking at a recent international development committee, she told of how LCDs felt “there’s too much political risk to not accept any climate finance that they’re offered and so are signing off on things that aren’t about building their national institutions,” such as appropriate electricity infrastructure.

It is important that development is a two-way conversation between donor and recipient. Solving the energy question is a complex issue that requires each side to take a pragmatic approach.

At the moment, focus remains too heavily on off-grid renewables, which cannot provide 24/7 power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. There are also harmful restrictions on funding high-tech and cleaner fossil fuel power stations, that have technologies that provide large-scale affordable power whilst significantly reducing carbon emissions.

If we are to bring light to the 1.1 billion globally, it is time rich countries listen to the wishes of those in the developing world, rather than setting unfair and unrealistic demands on those struggling to combat their countries’ energy poverty.

30,000 households in Zambia now with power

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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

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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

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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

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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?