Participants, at the end of a Power Africa town hall meeting, in Accra, have called for the investments in the production of diverse energy resources to help address the continent’s energy constraints.
With two-thirds of Africans still living without access to electricity, the participants said to ensure a reliable and sustainable power supply, both renewable and non-renewable energy resources must be promoted.
These include renewables such as solar, wind and hydro and non-renewables such as natural gas, coal and nuclear.
According to them, maintaining a sustainable electricity generation would protect consumers from potential price spikes or shortages.
They also recommended that the use of renewables, such as solar, was very critical in addressing the continent’s energy needs, since sunlight was in abundance in Africa.
Key among their recommendations was that African Governments in their efforts to invest in the energy sector should look out for experts, who were their own nationals to advise them; because some consultants and investors might be out there to deceive them.
The World Bank has declared 32 of the 53 countries in Africa to be in an energy crisis.
One critical factor is that energy development in Africa has not kept pace with the rising demand, thus placing a huge strain on the continent’s existing resources over the first decade of the 21st.
Ghana has had its share of the energy crisis, and continues to battle with technical challenges in transmission after improving its generation capacity.
The Power Africa Town Hall meeting, which was moderated by Dr Arena Onyewuchi, the Chair of the IEEE Power Africa Steering Committee, was an interactive session on power in Ghana and Africa.
The urban areas of Ghana enjoy relatively good reliability. However, there is still an opportunity for improvement in the rural parts of the country.
The key issues discussed were: “What is Ghana doing right?” “What can other sub-Saharan African countries learn from Ghana?”
“What role is USTDA playing?” “What role is IEEE Power Africa Conference playing?” “How do we empower the youth of Africa to actively develop Africa?”
Among the discussants were Dr Chris Mensah-Bonsu, the President and Chief Executive Officer of MB Energy; Ms Clare Sierawski, Power Africa Country Manager for West Africa for the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA); Mr Emeka Okpukpara Junior, Partner, Nextier Power; and Dr Barry Rawn, Brunel University, London.
The Power Africa Town Hall meeting serves as a precursor to the IEEE Power Africa Conference taking place in Accra, from Tuesday, June 27 to Friday, June 30.
Dr Mensah-Bonsu said one of the challenges facing the energy sector in Africa was the lack of transparency; stating that lack of transparency drove away investors and killed businesses.
He said the biggest challenge to Ghana’s energy sector was the lack of diversification.
“Not until we diversify, and mix our portfolios with renewables, we are not going to get anywhere,” he said.
Dr Mensah-Bonsu, who has more than 20 years of experience in the electric utility industry, including 17 years of service with the California Independent System Operator, called for conservation of energy on the part of customers.
Ms Sierawski, for her part, commended Senegal, Ghana and the Ivory Coast for spearheading in renewable energy generation such as solar in the West Africa sub-region.
Mr Okpukpara called for the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) by the youth to help address the continent’s energy needs.
He urged consumers to pay their utility bills regularly to ensure the sustainability of the power generation and distribution companies.
Dr Rawn said private participation in the energy sector in Nigeria was yielding fruitful results.
Dr Onyewuchi also urged the youth to get involved in the energy sector of the continent.