<i>By Simon Collings, GVEP International

GVEP International Blog: http://goo.gl/dwjN3</i>

Projections of power requirements for Africa compared to current capacity produces some scary numbers – but these include energy supply for industry and institutions not just households, and also usually assume a much higher level of household ‘access’ than the ‘minimum standards’ advocated by NGOs.

A new paper from Morgan Bazilian and colleages includes interesting speculations on the costs of simply meeting ‘minimum standards’ for currently unconnected households.

In Annexe 5 Bazilian and his colleagues look at what might be involved in providing low level power supply (450 kWh pa) to currently unconnected rural and urban households in sub-Saharan Africa. They estimate 12GW needed for off-grid (a mix of solar and diesel gensets) and 30GW of ‘low cost, low load-factor oil based plants’ for grid connections. Costs would be around $3.4bn for off grid and $4.5bn for grid per annum through to 2030 to reach ‘universal access’. These are very doable sorts of numbers.

It’s a very high level analysis but interesting in giving an idea of scale. Biogas, pico-hydro and pico-wind would be very cost effective solutions in many contexts (rather than gensets and SHS) as would small hydro or hybrid mini-grids. A ‘big’ initiative to kick-start a large scaling up in the household sector based on modest supply assumptions and existing technical solutions could be easily affordable by donors. If delivered through a private sector model consumers would pay for a lot of the equipment so the ‘investment’ needed should be significantly less than the ‘costs’ estimated in the paper.

Of course you also need power for industry…