Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Overcoming Power Transmission and Distribution Limitation: A Case for Distributed Power Generation

Sub-Saharan African economies have been exhibiting notable growth in the past years, on the back of a formidable performance from their industrial, manufacturing, services and technology sectors. This feat is nothing short of impressive, as sub-Saharan African economies are achieving these successes with much of its resources still left to be utilized, mainly owing to the deficiency in electricity in many of its areas.

At present, there are still approximately 600 million people in Africa that do not have access to electricity. From a global standpoint, almost 48% of the world’s population without access to electricity are in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, only seven countries – Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa – have electrification rates exceeding 50%. The rest of the region’s rate hover in the area of 20%.

In this light, increasing the region’s access to reliable electricity should be a priority and an urgent necessity to ensure that Africa maximizes its economic potential.

Hurdling challenges in delivering power

One of the salient power-related challenges that sub-Saharan African countries are facing is distributing power across its territories. Building the necessary infrastructure to efficiently deliver power across vast and remote areas is not only cost prohibitive, but may also take years to complete. Delays in the completion of essential power infrastructure, due to issues in funding, regulatory approval, construction or commissioning, result not only in tangible financial losses, but also in lost economic opportunities, owing to deferment of or interruption in commercial and/or industrial activities.

Such an adverse repercussion can potentially be avoided by turning to distributed power. There are instances when power generation capacity is sufficient, but distribution systems are constrained and unable to deliver the electric power to households, businesses and industrial areas. Distributed power systems, like temporary power plants, are the ideal solution to electricity distribution limitation.

Temporary power plants represent a readily available, flexible, scalable, reliable and cost-efficient solution to overcome power distribution limitation.

They can be transported from and to anywhere in the world, and can be installed and powered on in a matter of days, reducing turnaround time and immediately supplying power to residents, businesses and industries. They are able to fully function in virtually any site, including those where power infrastructure, like grids or substations, is outdated, constrained, damaged or absent.

They are flexible in power and voltage, and are scalable to match their power output to the precise power requirement of any site. For instance, power utilities can choose to put additional power modules to the existing temporary power plant in case the power demand increases at any point in time. This can be done without causing any interruption to the supply of electricity. Similarly, when power demand goes down, the temporary power plan can be scaled down.

Temporary power solutions also address challenges in terms of financing and operational affordability. Power utilities can turn to temporary power solutions without spending scarce resources on capital purchase. They can pay for the temporary power from their operating revenues, and can save on operating and maintenance expenses, owing to the fuel efficiency and reliability of temporary power plants.

When the need to boost power distribution has been fulfilled, power utilities can choose to simply end the contract, and the installed temporary power plants will be demobilized. There will be no permanent infrastructure or purchased equipment left idle or that should be regularly maintained, because the entire power solution package was simply hired.

While electricity generation has increased in most countries across sub-Saharan Africa, there still exist power distribution challenges that hamper the delivery of quality electricity to the general population. In many sub-Saharan African countries, efficient electricity distribution is generally limited to large cities and industrial areas, with the overall electrification rates remaining repressed. Distributed power technologies, like temporary power plants, can help bring power to the larger public. By resolving power distribution limitation, more people and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa will enjoy a reliable supply of electricity, which can potentially pave the way for the region’s sustainable economic development.


Altaaqa Global
Tel: +971 56 1749505

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