In a region where energy used to be a growth mitigating issue, East Africa has found ways to work around constant black outs, as a result the region is now one of the continent's leaders in renewable energy production and in the next three years energy will be shared in the in East African region; according to James Ngomeli, managing director, Brands and Beyond.
Hydro power contributes to about 60 per cent of East Africa’s power generation but it is facing some shortages, with the lack of rains and transmission lines under pressure.
“We are finding we are having blackout shortages, the transmission line is being overloaded,” said Ngomeli.
Conversations have been going on around the world about building a regional grid in East Africa and linking that with the Southern African Development Community power pool but according to Ngomeli the regional grid will not happen anytime soon.
However, there are projects currently in the pipeline which he holds optimism for, in Kenya, Ngomeli says the Ethiopia line is coming along, as well as the line from Tanzania to Uganda.
“Within the next three years we should see a circuit where there will be a lot of sharing of these energy resources across the region”
Not to say this means the eradication of energy shortages, Ngomeli emphasises that the countries involved are contributing power at different levels, so there are opportunities for ample energy but implementation is a setback.
“We believe we might get enough power but the offtake of that power will be a problem because the construction of those transmission lines is still a huge, huge problem in the region,” said Ngomeli
As much as the availability of power exists, Ngomeli feels that in East African countries like Tanzania, building a 700 kilometre transmission would be difficult.
Ambitions to integrate the renewable energy effort do exist but will not take place anytime soon. Ngomeli says it is seeing wind and solar investments coming in but they face the problem of feed-in tariffs in solar.
A feed-in tariff (FIT) is a policy that makes it mandatory for energy companies responsible for operating the national grid to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources at a pre-determined price to stimulate new investment in the renewables sector.
Apparently this ensures that those who produce electricity from identified renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and other renewable sources have a guaranteed market and an attractive return on investment for the electricity they produce.
“They [feed-in tariff] are not yet very attractive but I think government is working on that,” said Ngomeli.
Wind power has already made some progress, as he anticipates about 500 MW of wind in the next two years - but the renewable energy also faces challenges as a result of land issues.
The coal sector however is the most readily accessible resource to their disposal.
“Coal is cheap, it’s available, the prices are stable, and we should be able to see coal being used a lot in the region,” said Ngomeli
Tanzania and Kenya, according to Ngomeli, are said to bringing in about 2000 MW of coal.