“We should be ready to bet once again, as our predecessors did, on electricity and on the capabilities of human beings by recognizing that humanity has the potential to develop in a sustainable way.”
Africa: a Continent in Turmoil
For several years now, Africa has been affected by two large phenomena on a continental scale, both of which have a direct impact on energy.
On one hand, a high birth rate and increased life expectancies are making the population grow rapidly. An increase that is moving faster than the substantial electrification efforts put in place by local governments.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, although the number of people without electricity access decreased for the first time in 2014, rapid population growth could cancel out this success.
Another big phenomenon underway in Africa is overwhelming urbanization.
It is estimated that, by 2050, 60% of Africa’s population will live in cities. Although increases in urban population often involve social and economic development, there is no doubt that increasingly populated cities will put energy infrastructure and resources under pressure.
“We should consider what people need in order to thrive, with electricity as a key element – rather than setting a theoretical level of demand based on the assumption that people in energy-deficit regions cannot expect a similar level of energy supply, and well-being, as people in energy surplus regions.”
The Right Mix for Ensuring Sustainable Development
In a tumultuous and rapidly changing context like this, the search for Africa’s path to development must necessarily involve environmental and economic sustainability, based on the use of energy from renewable sources.
“This requires us to design growth paths relying on and implementing, from the beginning, scalable solutions to accommodate growing energy needs in a sustainable and resilient setting.”
Specifically, to pursue sustainable development that is centred on the welfare of people, we in the energy field must work in three fundamental areas – technical, economic and financial – so as to allow access to renewable sources for everyone.
From a technical point of view, the historical debate between micro-grid and plants must find a synthesis in a new scenario, which calls for both large plants for urban areas and the spread of micro-grids, essential in remote areas, which can be gradually expanded and interconnected.
The economic side is closely linked with the technical side and involves the search for business models that can integrate the consumption levels and cost of large grids and micro-grids based on renewable energy.
Finally, there is the financial aspect, which involves actors capable of imagining Africa’s new path by deploying resources in the medium term.
“To ensure that smart grids and renewables become increasingly important elements in the effort to provide energy for all, the name of the game is indeed convergence. Reaching consensus among communities on the type of future they want is paramount, as well as tight cooperation between government, local, and international institutions, to ensure that a robust regulatory environment is in place that encourages all stakeholders to make mutually beneficial choices.”
Our Commitment to Providing Green Energy to the Megalopolises of the Future
According to a Global Cities Institute study, all the megalopolises will be concentrated in Africa, India and Southeast Asia in 2100. The most populous will be Lagos, Nigeria, with 88 million inhabitants.
The sustainable growth of megacities is a significant challenge from the point of view of both resource use and of social and economic sustainability.
To contribute to an increasingly widespread use of green energy, Enel Green Power is working to ensure electrification in the large megalopolises, which will characterise Africa in the future, thanks to utility scale plants able to meet a rapidly growing demand for energy.
It’s still a partly unexplored pathway, which takes strength from the possibility of creating shared value in all the areas and communities where we work with concrete projects: EGP’s path toward sustainable development takes this direction.