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Having emerged from its elections in May – the first since the death of prime minister Meles Zenawi, who dominated its politics in the last two decades – and with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front remaining intact amid some cautious generational change, Ethiopia’s leadership is determined to accelerate openings to investment and consolidate the country’s position as the political and economic dominant force in the Horn of Africa. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has surprised some observers by reinforcing his position at home, continuing the Meles legacy but in his own style; his government will continue to promote the ‘developmental state’ policies that have delivered 10%-plus annual growth in the last decade, to drive Ethiopia towards middle income status by 2025.

Ethiopia
Free

Find ways to store the electricity generated from solar, wind and other renewables, and these technologies may cease to be ‘intermittent’ sources of power – a game-changer that is expected to transform Africa’s electricity supply industry in the next decade or two. “Storage will make a lot of difference to the shape of the grid,” observed Gravitricity managing director and co-founder Charlie Blair, predicting that networks will emerge “without big spines and instead more of a nodal system”.

Free

It may be symbolic that, beyond the state-run grid, Tanzania provides an enticing opportunity for innovative investors to build businesses in marginalised communities with aspirations to move beyond energy poverty. Tanzania has been a pioneer in the sub-Saharan off-grid revolution, where mini-grid operator Jumeme and other innovators have been able to build their businesses. Germany’s Redavia last year began operating its first two mini-grids, supported by InfraCo Africa.

Tanzania
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With all the talk about leapfrogging the grid, it is surprising how little the possible implications have filtered through to the debate about tariffs. The Africa Investment Exchange: Power and Renewables conference in London on 15-16 November saw a lively discussion about potential grid ‘disruptors’, in particular low-cost, small-scale renewable power sold directly to consumers. The technology has huge potential to provide clean power to households and industry at a fraction of the cost of the grid.

Free

There are signs of movement, at last, on bidding for flagship solar and other renewables projects, to be installed at either end of the continent. 

Morocco | South Africa
Free

The African Development Bank (AfDB) announced on 29 June that South Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance (MoEF) and the Export-Import Bank of Korea had signed an agreement to provide $600m to co-finance energy projects in Africa. It adds to the glut of funds targeting the African power sector, but oversupply of donor money – or undersupply of projects – is driving interest rates down and causing concern amongst financiers.

Free

The incomplete and low-key bulletin announcing the selection of 17 new power plants for South Africa’s renewable energy independent power producer procurement (REIPPP) programme on 29 October demonstrated not only the government’s shifting energy focus, but also conflicts underlying the process itself. Recently appointed minister Dikobe Ben Martins comes with a reputation for implementation, and there is no doubt that the energy sector needs it. With delays at all three of Eskom’s new power plants – which are shut down for a safety inspection following the deaths of six contract workers at Ingula pumped storage plant – and nuclear, gas and cogeneration plans that are behind schedule, Martins’ efforts are likely to be directed away from the REIPPP in the short term.

South Africa
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The impact of coronavirus on construction and project completions was underlined by figures for Q1 2020 produced by African Energy Live Data and presented at a 6 July Africa Investment Exchange (AIX) webinar on Africa power negotiations. This showed that only 240MW of net installed capacity was added in Q1 2020 (as a total of 438MW was installed but several big rental contracts ended). If this performance continued across the year, there would be a historic low in the installation of new generation capacity.

Free

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s in-tray would terrify almost any political leader. He will watch the US election results with special interest after President Donald Trump signalled his frustration over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam by observing that Egypt would “end up blowing up the dam and… they have to do something”. Trump blamed Ethiopia for failed negotiations chaired by the United States earlier this year.

Ethiopia
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Efforts to mitigate climate change, while electricity supply industries, transport networks and other big consumers of energy are put on a more sustainable, less carbon-intense footing, will rise sharply up the global agenda in 2021, ahead of the next big round of climate talks to be held on 1-12 November in Glasgow. This is likely to involve a rush into green bonds, new project financing and other instruments that could significantly increase the pace of Africa’s shift into a more sustainable energy future.

Free

Senegal is a relatively small economy with a reputation for competent, if sometimes flawed, governance of its limited resources. The prospect of an administration with a taste for joined-up government tapping recently identified offshore gas resources, and attracting investment in its abundant solar and wind resources, suggests that President Macky Sall’s Plan Sénégal Emergent strategy to achieve emerging market status by 2035 is not overblown.

Senegal
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US President Barack Obama was expected to make headline-grabbing announcements on the Tanzanian phase of his first extended trip to Africa, which started on 26 June. Of more long-term consequence is the great debate that rumbles on over how Tanzania should use its offshore reserves, now estimated at 150tcf of natural gas. International oil companies (IOCs), other potential investors and their advisers are expressing great frustration at the slow pace of decision-making, while Tanzanian policymakers say more time is needed to make momentous decisions for the economy and society.

Tanzania
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Politics runs through even the most technical questions in a Republic of South Africa (RSA) ruled for nearly three decades by the African National Congress (ANC). Power struggles and influence-broking within the party have a direct impact on the implementation of policy. Along with data and project updates, African Energy’s new 160-page South Africa Power Report 2021/22 highlights the need for President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement reforms to the electricity supply industry (ESI) and other key sectors, in the face of opposition from deeply-rooted ideological and factional rivals.

South Africa
Free

Once the right economics and policies are put in place, the pace of advance made by the most successful renewable energy types, including wind power and solar photovoltaic (PV), can be exceptionally fast. Extrapolations of continent-wide trends by the new African Energy Live data (Live data) suggest that sustainable technologies can replace polluting (and, increasingly, often costlier) thermal solutions which include the diesel, heavy fuel oil and charcoal that hundreds of millions in sub-Saharan Africa have come to depend on.

Uganda | Morocco | Senegal | South Africa
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Contracts must be concluded to show that renewable energy (RE) schemes are more than hot air, African Energy wrote last year. More solar and wind projects were being tendered in Morocco and South Africa’s new-found enthusiasm for RE would be confirmed if the much-anticipated first round of its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPP) was a success (AE 215/24).

Morocco | South Africa