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Regional Interconnections to Drive Power Pool Development in Sub-Saharan Africa
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As the region with some of the lowest electrification rates in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will exhibit continued growth of power pools. This growth is likely to be driven primarily by expanding transmission and distribution (T&D) networks within and between member countries.This outlook provides an analysis of the power pools in SSA, focussing on the current structure and status of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), East African Power Pool (EAPP), West African Power Pool (WAPP) and Central African Power Pool (CAPP). Included is a discussion on the generation and T&D subsectors of each power pool. Improving transmission capacity and efficiency through grid modernisation and expansion projects is the main focus for power pools in SSA. This will include the use of modern transmission towers, cables, transformers and smart grid technologies. Although there is an evident need for development of the T&D infrastructure in SSA as it has been identified as the main bottleneck, power pools are continuing to invest the majority of their funds into power generation projects in order to meet the anticipated electricity demand in the future.The demand for electricity is predicted to grow by 4.4% is SAPP, 6.5% in EAPP, 8.9% in WAPP and 7.3% in CAPP. However, SAPP will remain the largest electricity consumer in SSA in 2018. Creating an independent power producer (IPP) friendly environment has been identified as critical to meet SSA’s power needs as IPPs can help bridge the financing gap for power generation projects. As such, many countries in the region are in the process of developing a clear policy framework and transparent regulations. Given the region’s under-developed energy and fibre optics infrastructure, companies have the opportunity to diversify their revenue streams with the emerging trend of laying fibre optic cables simultaneously along with deploying or repairing the power transmission infrastructure. There is a divergence in grid models to allow for the emergence of a second model, the first being the increasing importance of large networks for bulk transmission that are capable of interconnecting load regions and large centralised renewable generation resources, and to provide more interconnections between countries and energy markets. The second is the emergence of clusters of small, largely self-contained distribution networks. There is growing interest in the potential of micro grids to fill the transmission gap in SSA. With the rising use of Renewable Energy (RE) such as solar and wind power, and the subsequent reduction in prices of RE technologies, micro grids are increasingly being deployed in rural and/or isolated regions in SSA where the power transmission infrastructure has not yet reached. Together with the growth in the battery storage market, the micro grid market presents a significant opportunity in SSA. There is a growing opportunity to diversify RE sources in SSA given the over-reliance on hydro power and the increasing climate change variability. The high geothermal potential in East Africa and solar potential in East, West and Southern Africa presents companies with the opportunity to leverage geothermal and solar technologies in these regions.Author: Laura Caetano
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