Integrated smart power grid technologies can help make electricity more accessible, reliable and affordable, especially in Africa’s rural areas, experts said Wednesday at the 3rd Africa Smart Grid Forum held in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda.
The Oct. 1-4 forum aims to highlight the potential of smart grid technologies as a means to accelerate sustainable access to electricity for the African people.
“For Africa to achieve more reliable, accessible and efficient power systems, smart grids must be established in order to solve many of the continent’s long-standing power connection challenges,” said Richard Schomberg, vice-president of smart energy standardization at Electricite de France Group, a French electric utility company.
Smart grids use digital communications to automate and manage the increasing degrees of complexity and requirements associated with modern power networks.
Schomberg said it is time for Africa to transform power utilities by mainstreaming smart grids across the continent and even in remote rural communities.
Mosad Elmissiry, senior energy advisor at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), said African economies should adopt smart grid technologies as new measures to bridge the electrification gap in the continent.
Smart grids can play a pivotal role in the deployment of new electricity infrastructure in Africa by enabling more efficient operation and lower costs, Elmissiry said, noting that smart grids can provide many opportunities on both the supply and demand sides.
African countries are currently struggling with the security of supply as power outages are frequent due to lack of smart grid technologies, according to Robby Simpson, system architect at General Electric Grid Solutions, a U.S. firm.
The meeting has brought together energy industry and utilities leaders, experts, investors and development partners from across Africa and beyond.
It is composed of high-level policy plenary sessions, followed by parallel technical sessions attended by international and African experts.
The forum also includes an exhibition for international and continental companies and organizations providing technology solutions and institutional support to enable smart grid implementation.
More than 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity and Africa loses about 4 percent of its GDP to lack of electricity, said the African Development Bank.
Low access rates and lack of reliable and affordable electricity present a challenge to rapid economic development in Africa, according to the World Bank Group.