2012 saw the Annual Energy Africa Conference take place in my backyard. The energy Africa conference focuses on addressing questions ranging from; how can Africa develop in a responsible fashion? Can we leap frog conventional fuels to renewable energy sources in Africa the right away just like the telecommunications industry did with mobile phones? The conference brings the higher echelon of the energy industry, policy makers, small startups and all others interested in contributing or understanding those questions. This invaluable pool of individuals who presented their findings mostly in roundtable/panel style discussions and individual presentations provided a plethora of information some of which I was able to note.
Of note in one of the presentations was the revelation that the US was able to experience major change in only 10yrs. Similarly, a few years ago, natural gas usage was non-existent in East Africa. Now we are seeing a boom in natural gas use and production across countries like Kenya and Mozambique. The capabilities exist but there is a need to address a key question. How does energy consumption affect social issues?
Mr. Robert Stoner, Associate Director of the MIT Energy Initiative noted what would be a major setback to extracting and producing energy sources in Africa. He noted that when you are a developing country without a domestic energy market, the pressure to sell abroad is enormous and there aren’t the right institutions and technical resources to handle this type of influx of external influences. This leads to constant lagging. There is an imperative need to establishing domestic markets and improving governmental capacity with increasing production. Tanzania for example, is taking the approach of putting in place policies before large scale production can take place.
- 1-2GW of installed capacity added each year but Africa needs 6-7GW. At this rate, less than 60% of Africans will have access to power by 2030.
- USGS estimates over 138 Billion Barrels of undiscovered oil in Africa.
- 9700 MW of wind power already being generated in Africa.
Present at the conference was Regional Commissioner of Mtwara, Tanzania, Colonel (Rtd) Joseph Leon Simbakalia. In his presentation, he recognized Tanzania as a new frontier of natural gas. In most of sub-Saharan Africa, access to modern energy is about 20% (15% population penetration in Tanzania). In south American countries, this number is as high as 90%. In a rather elaborate sales pitch, he noted that there are two factor that make Africa promising; vast energy and demographics. Linear energy demand will rise by 25% in 2050 with the increase in the population to about 1 billion. This is if we opt to stick to the primary energy source of biomass which has large effects on the biosphere. Household energy supply is extremely important. It is a basic demand for any persons.
Like noted by Mr Stoner, government focus must be on improving capacity but private establishments should be in a position to support. Using an analogy of providing shoes for the 5% that recognize its worth vs the 95% that don’t realize the need, the colonel argued that the demand for energy is universal for the necessity of life. Entities in the position of providing the resource should focus on its importance and not the issue of it being a bad business and opting to export for larger profit margins. In his summary, he concluded that investments in energy and telecoms will continue to be seen as an outcome of growth instead of the catalyst for it.
In another presentation of how Tanzania was addressing its energy issues, he spoke against privatization of infrastructure needed for the common good. In his words “You cannot have private individuals own a highway that brings food from the villages to the towns.” In a breakdown of the state laws, he noted that Tanzania separates minerals from petroleum’s in its acts and legislation. Before opting to produce, the country has embarked on national debates that emphasize gas policies before making resolutions and permitting companies to utilize the resource. They insist that there must be a gas master plan, this way all possible social, economic and political issues are addressed appropriately. He noted that there exists an imbalance between the major parties in concenssionaring (GOVERNMENT vs industry); financial imbalances, understanding/knowledge of the industry etc. These imbalances have many times led to situations where political office holders come through to have taken bribes when in actuality; they were not knowledgeable and as such were outwitted into approving projects. He ended this session with an Advise for getting into the gas industry: improve the level of trust.
Women spend an average of 6hrs a day every day to fetch firewood and they haven’t even started cooking.
2.5 billion people with lack of access to plain cooking fuels.
The answer to climate change is natural gas and renewables used efficiently.
The World Bank has no interest in addressing the energy issue in Africa. They have very misplaced priorities.
In Tanzania, StatOil has an obligation to invest 15% in goodwill in the country and zilch is being put into powering homes.
Only way to promote unconventional fuels is if oil costs at least $80/barrel.
It doesn’t take much improved energy to significantly improve human development.
Inadequate sanitation costs 8 African nations around $5.5billion each year from dropped productivity.
Capacity building must be addressed at three tiers; government, Communities and individuals.
Thermal energy at 58%, Hydro at 41%. 51% of energy consumption is at conmass. 5.9GW of power generated in Nigeria. – Richard Amaechi
The core energy challenges in Africa are in the Area of; Clean Water, Sanitation, Lighting & Cooking.
Designing around not having access to regular energy is an engineering challenge and that cost issue makes it discouraging for companies to invest in developing economies.
In order to expedite the supply of energy to the remotest parts of the world while sufficient infrastructure is being built, there is a need to make retail grade energy. This is something that has been seen with Natural gas cylinders purchased by individuals to power their gas stoves.
In a presentation regarding maximizing the value of one’s natural resource, Melanie Kenderdine, Executive Director, MIT Energy Initiative focused on the shale natural gas production in North-West Africa. Noting that the region already had a well-developed shale gas presence (production and infrastructure), there is an enormous opportunity for power generation with gas. An increase in power generation using clean glass guaranteed about the same amount in decline on the use of coal. In addition to this substitution, she noted the tremendous potential of supplying natural gas to Japan. The close proximity of the African continent to Japan vs. their current European sources would make African produced gas more competitive in price and preferred. She concluded by recognizing that there is a much greater potential for African States to adopt renewables because most countries on the continent are only just developing their energy infrastructure.
A more practical situation involving Oil and gas major, Anandarko was presented by Scott More who gave a breakdown of the companies work in Mozambique. His presentation centered on the process of developing a gas reserve from exploration to production revealing the billions spent in making this happen. He explained that most of what has been found in africa are conventional findings using regular exploration methods. What is really going on is that African countries are opening up to invest in things many companies wouldn’t be willing to invest in thanks to volatile governments and structures. His presentation also centered on what role companies should play in ensuring that the governments they are working with handle their new found wealth from energy production judiciously. He emphasized that domestic use of their products must be encouraged and investments in capacity building to ensure more domestic use is increases must be embarked upon.
From drawing analogies between energy distribution in Oklahoma and Africa, Mike Ming, Secretary of Energy, Oklahoma, Emphasized the need to build a transmission system necessary to ensure power generating plants can easily plug right in. He noted that the US is embracing natural gas and that Oklahoma estimates they will go from35% to over 60% of their energy supply natural gas base. They will also increase wind capacity two fold. Natural gas and wind are the two lowest-cost forms of new generation and as such a natural gas wind based energy system is seeing tremendous adoption. Regarding human consumption, gas resource is technically infinite and the potentials are great. He argued that if you allow the markets work, people will embrace clean energy. Oklahoma went from producing 0 to 3000MW of Natural/Wind power in just four years. He noted that people need to have more clarity about the potential of natural gas and concluded from a question thrown at him that the biggest market in the long term for natural gas is in transportation. Short term is in energy development.
A fact based energy breakdown of the continent of Africa was presented by Dr. Morgan Bazilian, Deputy Director, Joint Institute for Energy Analysis. These facts included;
- The total SSA in all of Africa except SA is about 32GW, about the size of power generation (installed capacity) of Argentina. Africa in total generates 87GW of power.
- 25% of that power is not available for generation
- 40 billion a year would be required to get all of Africa on track over the next 20yrs on the journey to 100%
In this presentation, Dr. Bazilian harped on the need to completely rethink the concepts currently being used for demand, response and demand projection by OECD countries. A complete paradigm shift was championed by him. In his analysis of Nigeria, he recognized that Infrastructure/institutions/capacity is lacking hence the gas flaring in the region. Finally, in voicing his frustration with the United Nations, he lamented that most UN institutions are only interested in Poverty, Health and Education with little focus on energy. This in his opinion is wrong and must be addressed immediately.
In a brief presentation from a GE employee, Brandon Owens, he revealed that Morocco, Kenya, Egypt and SA dominate the renewable energy industry (Planned, constructed and/or operational) with Egypt and morocco championing Natural Gas/Solar hybrids and Kenya focusing on geothermal sources. Of all states analyzed, South Africa was showcased as a country that has successfully driven its renewable energy industry through sustained government policies. Finally, in giving a big picture of Africa, he noted a correlation between renewable energy development and good governance and institutions.
USGS OIL AND gas assesment fact sheets available at USGS website.
Special guest, Bill Ritter, Former governor of Colorado who had a representative speak for him had many things to say about the decay of government in Africa. He found it hard to understand why 550 million people have phones and no place to charge them, yet governments are not making it priority to make power ubiquitous and cheaply available. He noted that the current main source of power, diesel generation costs upwards of 5 – 7 dollars per kilowatt compared to the $.35 – 1.27 Per kilowatt it would cost from other general sources of energy. Even with the abundance to achieve such cheaper sources, there are people that will actually kill you if you try to mess with their diesel.