Apple Power

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

Researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have created cheap and efficient batteries from apple leftovers. Just imagine charging your smartphone by hooking it up to a rotten apple! In reality, this is a little bit of a stretch from what to expect from this discovery but it is by and large a big win for green technology. In a post for Clean Technica, Tina Casey discusses why this ‘apple-power’ could make waves for energy storage systems and could allow sodium-ion batteries to compete with the in-vogue lithium-ion batteries. Continue reading

Africa’s Push for Nuclear Energy

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

In the past decade, African countries have taken huge strides to include renewable energy sources such as wind, biomass and, solar in their energy mix which is largely dominated by hydroelectric power. However, in recent years, more and more African countries are considering nuclear energy as a means of boosting their economies and closing their power supply gaps. Scott Firsing’s informative piece in The Wire examines Africa’s recent forays into nuclear energy and it was a pleasant surprise for me to learn that nuclear energy in Africa was not a novel prospect. As far back as the 1950s, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) built the continent’s first nuclear reactor and currently there are twelve nuclear research reactors situated in eight African countries. These reactors serve primarily as neutron sources for research purposes and are not used for power generation. Continue reading

Biomass: The Key to Unlocking Africa’s Hydrogen Energy Potential?

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

An article in the August 2015 edition of the Environmental Progress & Sustainable Energy journal assesses Africa’s promising hydrogen energy potential (HEP) from biomass.

Africa’s long-standing issues with electricity generation and access have been well documented. With Northern Africa and South Africa accounting for 30% and 45% respectively of the total electricity generation in Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) —excluding South Africa— generates only 25%. The alarm bells start ringing when you consider the fact that 80% of Africa’s population resides in SSA and a whopping 67% of people living in this region lack access to electricity. Continue reading

Technological Leapfrogging: Africa’s growing solar industry

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

Joseph Amankwah-Amoah writes an informative piece on solar energy in Africa with an emphasis on how the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry has made huge strides in the continent particularly in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. I spent a great part of my high school years living through one of Ghana’s worst periods of energy crisis. For most of my junior year, I had to make use of candles and rechargeable lamps at night to study and get assignments done because of a notoriously unreliable load-shedding scheme. It’s been uplifting though, to see concerted efforts from the government and the private sector in recent years, to move the country away from its over-dependence on hydroelectric power and towards more sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Many African countries depend on hydroelectric power to sustain and drive domestic and economic activities and a majority of the continent’s population has had to contend with unreliable grid power. An estimated 600 million people in Africa still have no access to electricity. [http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30805419]

Off-grid homeowners and entrepreneurs spend about $10.5 billion a year on kerosene —an environmentally unfriendly and inefficient energy source— to power up their homes and businesses. Until a few years ago, it was almost as if most of the continent had forgotten that it had yet to harness to one of the most abundant and cost-effective energy sources available —the sun.

Technological leapfrogging is a process through which developing countries circumvent the resource-intensive (and expensive) form of economic development by skipping to the most advanced technologies available rather than investing in old and inefficient technologies. Africa’s solar photovoltaic industry is a prime illustration of this phenomenon with South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria being its main vanguards. Globally, the solar industry has been growing phenomenally and it is projected to become one of the fastest-growing markets in Africa. Key factors in the solar PV industry’s rise in Africa are that the price of solar PV panels have fallen by as much as 50% due to increased production in China and a number of technological breakthroughs that the industry has seen. One notable breakthrough is the thin-film PV cell, which is known to have low defects, is easier to manufacture and is cheaper than the more ubiquitous crystalline-based solar panels. [http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/thin-film-solar-cell.htm]

Technologies like these are being quickly diffused in Africa and are driving its ‘leapfrog’ in the solar industry.

Kenya and South Africa are the continent’s trailblazers given how they are attracting and using capital from the private sector to improve the development of solar energy. Kenya’s strengths lie in its strong solar PV market, which is focused on small home and commercial systems, which has had a huge buy-in from its domestic market. As far back as 1990, Kenyan household consumption represented about 40% of all solar PV sales. In addition, there are no taxes on solar products and other renewable hardware in Kenya, which has no doubt helped with the diffusion of solar technologies and is helping local firms compete in both domestic and foreign solar markets. The governments of South Africa and Kenya have formed strong commitments towards renewable energy and are creating attractive environments for both foreign solar panel makers and investors, and local solar panel developers —a model that Ghana and Nigeria are following closely albeit through private-public partnerships.

Despite the promising signs of Africa’s solar revolution, there are still a number of barriers holding back the scaling-up process. For most African countries, the high up-front costs of solar panels still remains prohibitive. Furthermore, the lack of proper financing schemes and human-capital development for solar initiatives in low-income countries is affecting the rate at which solar technology is spreading across the continent. However, on a smaller scale, there is a growing consensus that Africa is finally beginning to realize the potential of this energy source to its energy sector and economic development as a whole.

 

Amankwah-Amoah, J. (2015), Solar Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Challenges and Opportunities of Technological Leapfrogging. Thunderbird Int’l Bus Rev, 57: 15–31. January 30 2016

 

BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30805419)

 

HowStuffWorks (http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/thin-film-solar-cell.htm)

 

 

 

TWEET: Look out for #Africa’s #solar leapfrog

Turkey’s Soft Power: Tapping into Sub-Saharan Africa’s energy

by Charles Kusi Minkah-Premo

Safa Uslu’s discerning article in Insight Turkey’s Spring 2015 issue takes a look at Turkey’s growing relations with Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and how it has used this relationship to find energy resources to boost its economy. As a Ghana native, over the past five or so years I’ve noticed a growing Turkish presence in our country’s capital, Accra. Most of the Turks I’ve come across personally are entrepreneurs -warehouse and restaurant owners- but I had no inkling of Turkey’s hand in Sub-Saharan Africa’s energy scene. Continue reading