Is solar power a feasible renewable energy option? How can we make large scale uptake of solar energy work in Africa? Many of these questions around Africa’s options to meet power challenges in more environmentally friendly ways will be answered at this year’s African Utility Week which is held at the CTICC in Cape Town from 15-17 March. The increased global focus on renewable energy is reflected in the experts, technology and services featured at what is still the largest power and energy conference and exhibition in Africa.
South Africa committed to renewable power
Says conference director Claire Volkwyn: “the South African government’s commitment to the development of renewable energy was reiterated by President Jacob Zuma during this year’s State of the Nation address, when he said the government would start procuring power from Renewable Energy Power Producers.”
She continues: “Given the unlimited renewable energy resources Africa possesses, and in the context of a transition to a more sustainable energy mix, African Utility Week again presents a dedicated conference breakout detailing the role of renewable energy in the continent’s energy mix.”
“Trina Solar always planned to come to Africa”
Solar energy giant Trina Solar is heading up an impressive list of renewable energy experts from all over the world who will share their experience at African Utility Week. The Chinese powerhouse is a new solar energy player on the African continent, but has earned a solid reputation in the European and North American markets, says Jerome Mazet, Trina Solar’s Senior Manager, Asia-Pacific Marketing & Global Branding: “Trina Solar has always planned to come to Africa. For the past 5 years, since the global market entered a phase of rapid growth, we’ve been keeping an eye on developments in various countries in Africa.”
He continues: “approaching new and emerging markets, we leverage the professional and technological experience gained in the more mature solar markets of Europe and North America to help younger markets grow quickly and stably. Our offer - high quality products at an affordable cost – helps solar PV (photovoltaic) expand into areas in which solar was previously considered either technologically or economically unfeasible.”
Large up-front investments needed for solar projects
According to Mazet, finance is the main challenge to implementing solar and other renewable energy projects in general in South African and African markets. He points out that “while developing residential or small-scale commercial rooftop solar is not too intimidating financially, large-scale rooftop or ground-mounted solar projects require a large up-front investment of capital, which local banks in Africa may not be willing to support”.
To address this, he says, international development banks and lenders such as the World Bank and Global Environmental Fund have stepped in to provide support and financing for early projects. “We’re hopeful that these and local banks will work with the solar industry to bring PV into Africa’s long-term energy mix. For solar to thrive at this point in time, we need the support of the government and local businesses. We’re pleased to see that governments around Africa are beginning to support the adoption of solar photovoltaics in their countries, “ says Jerome Mazet of solar power giant Trina Solar, which is also an official partner of the Renault Formula One team.
African Utility Week
African Utility Week (african-utility-week.com) brings together power industry professionals from across the world, African Energy ministers or their representatives from countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Rwanda and DRC as well as the ‘who’s who’ of municipal, utility and government stakeholders who are shaping the future of the industry.
The high-level speaker line-up includes the CEO of Eskom, Brian Dames, the South African Minister of Energy, Elizabeth Dipuo Peters, and Chairman of the Gridwise Alliance, Guido Bartels.
Highlights of the Renewable Energy conference sessions include:
• Solar as a feasible, large scale generation technology in Africa;
• An update on Africa’s first solar park – producing solar power on a large scale and at reduced cost;
• Case study: The 100-MW Hopefield wind farm – the most advanced large-scale commercial wind farm in South Africa today;
• Unlocking Africa’s wind energy potential - getting projects off the ground;
• An overview of South Africa’s updated White Paper on renewable energy;
• Industrial experiences with Renewable feed-in-tariffs (Refit) – Kenyan case study;
• Energy efficiency in municipalities – case studies.
• CPV solar demonstration plant at Aquila Safari Lodge, Touws River;
• Klipheuwel Wind Energy Facility.
Event dates and location: Conference: 15-17 March 2011. Pre-conference workshops: 14 March 2011. CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa