In the South African Department of Mineral Resources and Energy 2020 Annual Performance Plan report, the authority highlighted the importance of the energy sector in catalysing economic growth and development,writes Romiald Noussi, Head of Operations, Aggreko.

As in the report, real life reflects the need for a reliable supply of energy to ensure that Africa continues to push its presence onto the global stage and build foundations of economic and social prosperity. To achieve this change, and to transform the continent’s legacy challenges into a future that allows for continued growth and development, it remains a priority for the government and private sector to invest in energy solutions that are sustainable, reliable, and relevant.

As the continent moves into the first half of 2021, it’s the right time to look ahead at what the year ahead looks like for the energy sector and what changes or opportunities could potentially shift energy solutions into high gear.

The Renewable Outlook

Of course, no conversation about what lies ahead for the energy sector would be complete without looking at renewables and how these are evolving and adapting. The Deloitte 2021 Renewable Energy Industry Outlook report highlighted how it is very likely that more ‘power-to-x projects may emerge at the intersection of the power sector and adjacent industries.’ For Deloitte, the renewable energy market is likely to see increased movement in innovation and development, as well as cross-industry collaboration, as industries and corporates converge.

Renewable energy remains immensely valuable to the African market and 2020 saw some slow, but steady movements towards the investment and development of solutions and services. In South Africa, coal decommissioning continued throughout the year as did the roll-out of green energy platforms. This strategy was echoed in Kenya with continued investment into solar, hydro, wind, and biomass. Morocco and Ethiopia are following suit with a strategic focus on renewable energy solutions into 2021.

Cost and Performance Efficiencies

One of the key considerations for the sector is going to be cost savings and improving efficiencies. This not only for energy companies but for organisations. The Covid-19 pandemic hit economies and companies hard and there is a need to invest in solutions that will ensure reliable and consistent energy provision within tight cost parameters. This trend has seen continued business interest in Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) solutions as they provide both service providers and corporates with richer control over service delivery and expenditure.

With continued lockdowns and pandemic restrictions, EaaS will likely continue to grow in popularity throughout 2021 as corporate and business energy consumption remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. EaaS allows for managed expenditure in conditions that are defined by how rapidly they change and ensures that organisations across all sectors can adjust their spending and usage according to their requirements.

Fresh Innovation

Another leading trend for the sector is the move towards inventive solutions that allow organisations and industry to stabilise energy provision and investment. Hydrogen is becoming more prominent, especially after continued growth in popularity in Europe, alongside microgrid technology and hybrid power solutions.

The latter has made solid strides in Africa, with many companies opting for solutions that allow them to minimise their reliance on fractured energy grids. Hybrid platforms are already being used to great effect by mining companies in Africa – the largest implementation in the world recently done by Aggreko using thermal and solar batteries to deliver a next-generation technical and commercial energy solution.

Hybrid and biogas systems both are set to cement their standing over the next 12 months thanks to their ubiquity and reach. They can be implemented in rural locations that are traditionally difficult to power using traditional methods, and in urban environments that are reluctant to put all their eggs into an unreliable energy basket.

A Solid Footing

The Africa Energy Outlook 2021 by the African Energy Chamber underscored the importance of energy transition and investing in ‘new efforts to decarbonise the world’. The pandemic, external market challenges, environmental issues, and resource complexities are all weighing heavily on energy investment and decision-making today. For innovative energy solutions to succeed, African governments need to slice the red tape and make it easier for invention and investment to gain a foothold on the continent. This will allow for richer energy provision across multiple platforms and sources and will contribute to the economic and social growth on the continent.

Aggreko works closely with the private and public sectors to create highly specialised, cost-efficient, and relevant solutions that help industries and organisations perform optimally in variable conditions. With Aggreko as a trusted partner, you can prepare for the uncertain and ensure that your systems are ready for whatever the future holds.

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