Why decentralised energy makes sense for Africa

0Localised power stations and next-generation renewable gases could shape the continent’s energy landscape in the future. Alex Marshall, group marketing and compliance director from Clarke Energy, tells us more

Many countries in the developed world created power generation networks based upon large centralised power generation stations with significant investment in power transmission and distribution networks. From the African context this has not happened yet there is a huge need to increase power generation capacity.

The thought of addressing this through a small number of large gas, hydro, coal or nuclear-fuelled power stations seems attractive at first; however the goals of supplying power for all in Africa could be better addressed with decentralised distributed generation, lots of smaller localised power stations to address the electrification needs quickly.

A challenge with large centralised power stations is how to maximise the energy content of the valuable fuels. Coal power stations may convert the energy in the fuel to only 40% electricity. With the most modern efficiency gas-turbine power plants this may be increased to 60%. All of the remaining energy is lost through heat.

In addition, further power losses occur through transmission lines, where moving electricity from point of generation to user, can be as much as 2%. Then there is the issue of electricity theft along the line, which is a controversial issue as well as a dangerous practice. The investment in this transmission infrastructure is significant as well as time consuming, and poses its own challenges.

The developed world is now moving away from these centralised power systems towards a more decentralised option. Decentralised energy produces power close to the site of use, reducing losses associated with transmission and improving energy efficiency. If it incorporates a combined heat and power plant, total fuel efficiency may be as high as 90-95% by using both the electricity and waste heat created during the production of power and utilisation of the original fuel.

The heat can be used to generate steam, hot water or can be used directly in a drier or industrial facility. It can also be converted to cooling, through an absorption chiller – a valuable driver for air conditioning or refrigeration systems – particularly relevant in the African context. Industrial plants in Nigeria are moving towards the deployment of CHP and trigeneration technology…….Continue Reading.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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