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AU: Global Energy Interconnection is to Electrify Africa

(People's Daily Online)  Sissy Zhang  2016-11-10 11:27


Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim, Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission gives keynote speech at a high-level seminar on Global Energy Interconnection at the UN Headquarters in New York in October, 2016.

As one of the most resourceful region on the globe in energy resources, its energy access is still scarce. Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim, Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission, highlights China’s presence in the continent’s energy sector and calls on multinational energy corporates to invest in Africa.

As one of the most resourceful region on the globe in energy resources, technical potential of solar resource in Africa takes up 40% of the globe, wind resource 30% and hydro resource 12%. Yet its energy access is still scarce, with up to 55% of the continent population, which is around 600 million people, have no access to modern energy service. There’s huge potential in the continent’s energy development. And the concept of Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) occurs just in time.

Global energy interconnection refers to the development of a globally interconnected, ubiquitous robust smart grid, supported by backbone ultra-high voltage (UHV) grids, and dedicated primarily to the transmission of clean energy. The globally interconnected energy network is connected to large energy bases in the Arctic and equatorial regions, as well as different continents and countries. Generally speaking, a global energy interconnection will form a green, low-carbon platform for global allocation of energy with extensive coverage, strong allocation capability, and a high level of security and reliability.

In late October, a high-level seminar was co-organized by the United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) at the UN Headquarters in New York. GEIDCO was initiated by China’s largest state-owned energy corporate State Grid to promote the sustainable development of energy worldwide. UN ambassadors from 45 countries, international organizations, research institutions, multinational companies were presented. Dr. Ibrahim was invited to deliver the keynote speech.

In an interview with People’s Daily Online, Dr. Ibrahim agrees that GEI would bring great benefit to African countries. She says that energy interconnection means sustainability, security, efficiency and affordability in energy supply. Energy projects create jobs, satisfy economic and social demands, therefore “promote world peace and sustainable development”.

Currently, power interconnection has being built between African countries like Egypt and Ethiopia. “There is a lot going on, but it needs to be pushed and coordinated.” Dr.Ibrahim says, “AU’s role is to keep all of these projects going at the same time, to solve some bottlenecks and connect regions together when it’s time.”

AU plays a role in moving forward energy projects on the continent especially on regulatory issues. Dr.Ibrahim says that AU is “not imposing anything but has mechanism to bring ministers from different countries together”. “They decide, the summit approves and then implement.”She says.

According to Dr.Ibrahim, AU just finalizes the regulatory framework for the energy sector in Africa, and is going to present it to the ministers of energy this month.

However, political issues amongst energy development are underlined. Dr.Ibrahim says it should not be used to control political situation or political opinions. “It’s important to keep it outside of political issues, to make it a purely economic and technical issue.” she says, “We should set the rules and regulations that maintain the network is used in a fair way.”

She also brings up major challenges like investment environment, political and policies stability and project transparency. But there are incentives and regulations that reform the process in some African countries as well.

Africa set a target to provide power access to all people by the year of 2030.  African Development Bank announced A New Deal on Energy for Africa that targets to have universal access by 2025. United Nations sustainable development agenda looks for universal access by 2030. And when AU plans for infrastructure development in Africa, it sets a goal to bring energy access to additional 800 million people by 2040.

AU sets the Agenda 2063 in 2013 when it marks its 50 years anniversary of establishment. With the first 50 years struggling for independence, the next 50 years was said to be focus on development and integration.

Dr.Ibrahim calls upon corporates to invest in Africa’s energy sector and call it a win-win situation. “Rather than build it in somewhere else, make it in Africa.”she says. She encourages companies to work together to build up the industry, to build transmission lines and power stations, to create jobs and electrify villages and remote areas.

She also mentions the presence of China: “Chinese companies are doing a lot. About 30% of all projects in Africa are done by Chinese companies.”

Energy interconnection by State Grid has been demonstrated in China, and projects are under construction in Brazil and India. The world’s largest power utility is planning to tackle the energy crisis of Africa by building backbone grids and connecting the continent with Europe and Asia.

Last December, State Grid signed a memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation with South African electricity parastatal Eskom at a ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and SA President Jacob Zuma. The two energy companies are highly complementary with huge potential for collaboration in the international business, technical, managerial and financial fields. And the memorandum provides a platform to leverage their expertise and co-operation in the development of business projects, technology sharing and knowledge creation opportunities.

State Grid is running the highest voltage level AC/DC hybrid power grid in China and it is unique in the world, having had no major blackout in the past 30 years.

State Grid gives prominence to the fields of overseas investment, engineering, procurement and construction project contracting, equipment export, international participation and global standard establishment. Its overseas assets are worth more than $42bn, listed on the second place on The Fortune 2016 Global 500.

On the Africa continent, its Ethiopia GDHA transmission project for Renaissance Dam with an investment of $1.46bn is currently operational. It is also a key player in the Mphanda Nkuwa hydropower project in Mozambique and Inga 3 project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two projects are going to specifically benefit SA with safe, clean and reliable power supply.