Power-Gen Africa provides global engineering consultant WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff with a platform for the company to continue raising its brand profile in the consulting engineering network and collaborate with like-minded industry players and explore potential new business opportunities, says WSP|Parsons Brinckerhoff power director Paul Grota.
“The power team is eager to attend the event to see what innovations suppliers are introducing and . . . if there is any movement on existing or new projects in the power generation industry,” he adds.
Power generation and distribution in Africa faces many challenges, with only about 25% of sub-Saharan Africa having access to electricity at present, and an estimated $300-billion needed in investment for the region to have access to electricity in the next 15 years, Grota points out.
He notes that ageing power infrastructure that is unable to keep up with growing power demand is a problem in the region, as well as low levels of access to power in some areas and poor reliability of power generation and power networks. In addition, increasing tariffs – to the extent that average electricity costs in sub-Saharan Africa exceed those of most of the developing world – make it difficult for individuals and businesses to access power in many African countries.
Grota highlights that companies in the African power industry have faced the pressures of attempting to balance the security of power supply with growing demands from investors to reduce their carbon footprints and invest in greener technology or renewable-energy solutions.
Although Grota says policies and regulations are not always conducive to encouraging private-sector investment in the power sector, he acknowledges that the trend of encouraging independent power producers to enter the market is increasing. Foreign investment is, moreover, affected, among others. by political instability, exchange rate fluctuation and insufficient funds to cover development costs of potential projects, which often compromise the bankability of projects, he notes. A lack of adequate skills that can be locally sourced to develop and implement projects also remains a significant problem.
“That said, we have seen a significant amount of investment and movement in Africa’s power sectors over the past decade with regard to refurbishment and new build coming through the pipeline,” Grota says.
He notes that many African governments are looking at proactively spearheading power development in their respective countries and prioritising areas to ensure projects move forward. Currently, there are a number of country-specific initiatives under way to improve the power sectors’ infrastructure, such as increasing the number of power generation plants, as well as scaling up transmission and distribution lines, he highlights.
“Sub-Saharan Africa’s power sectors will continue to be viewed as key destinations for investment and expansion, aligned to the economic growth and social objectives of each region and country,” he adds.
He notes that the upgrading and refurbishment of existing power generation and transmission assets are key priorities in the region, as well as building new power generation plants and expanding regional interconnecting transmission lines. Some sub-Saharan Africa countries have also been moving towards unbundling State-owned power utilities to cater for different subsectors, such as power generation, transmission and distribution, for partial or full privatisation of utilities.
There have also been changes to environmental legislation and standards in many African counties to bring them more in line with international standards, as well as an increase in off-grid systems, particularly into more remote and rural areas, he adds.
Further, there has been renewed focus on the regional integration of power systems and a significant focus on cleaner energy and long-term sustainability.