What will Africa’s Future Energy Mix Look Like?

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Gradual economic growth, changing lifestyles and the need for reliable modern energy access is expected to require actual energy supply to be at least doubled by 2030. For electricity it might even have to triple.

Affordable energy remains a central feature of human development goals and its linkage to water, food, security, health and well-being is as strong as it is pervasive, according to Affordable Energy for Humanity (AE4H) Global Change Initiative, which is an international collaboration between the world’s leading scientists, technology developers and practitioners on the topic of universal energy access.

The Initiative experts argue that today it’s a moral obligation and a matter of global conscience to help alleviate the burden of nearly 2.5 billion people in the world without reliable access to electricity or basic energy services.

Today the access to low cost energy is a fundamental requirement for comprehensive development. Unfortunately, energy and poverty remains a barrier to economic well-being for such a large proportion of humanity that the rationale for action now is compelling.

For instance, in 2030 there will still be 655 million people in Africa without access to power, and nearly 850 million without clean cooking facilities, depriving the majority of the population of the opportunity to pursue a healthy and productive life.

Africa is richly endowed with sustainable energy sources. However, a continued reliance on oil and gas along with traditional biomass combustion for energy will bring considerable social, economic and environmental constraints. And in 21th century the time is ripe for planning eco-friendly energy mixes.

Today it is important today to shoot two birds at the same time – to achieve a low carbon energy mix at the same time meeting the requirement of affordable energy for in need.

African counties can deploy a sustainable mix of nuclear and renewable energy sources to eliminate power shortages, bring electricity and development opportunities to rural villages that have never enjoyed those benefits, boost industrial growth, create entrepreneurs, and support increased prosperity across the continent.

According to the new report of International Energy Agency both nuclear and renewable energy sources are perceived as important pillars to guarantee world’s growing energy needs with a view of limiting CO2 emissions and average temperature growth.

In this case nuclear energy coupled with hydropower and renewables can become a pillar of new clean and low-carbon global energy mix. As for today, nuclear power sources have proven their technological advantages and readiness for immediate deployment to guarantee sustainable and affordable baseload energy supply.

Solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power can work in harmony to become the base for the world’s future carbon-free energy mix.

Jatin Nathwani, Professor and Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Environment at University of Waterloo, believes that nuclear energy has a positive role to play on two fronts, because it is a low carbon source of energy and can be produced reliably and at a reasonable cost. Cost is important because the provision of “affordable energy” for those with little access is just as important to improving the quality of life of every citizen of the world. I am a strong believer in the power of scientific and technological innovations to make a positive contribution to our collective well being. We need to move away from highly “politicised” positions on energy technology options.

Indeed, as mentions Ben Heard, head of NGO Bright New World, “We need power that’s stable, that’s reliable, not just low-cost, but that actually provides necessary stability in the system, so we don’t have events like serious blackouts. And options that are low-carbon and bring all those characteristics are very thin on the ground. And so the best option that brings those characteristics is nuclear technology and if we can come up with the right mix of nuclear and renewable technologies, then we can have the electricity system and an energy system that is completely decarbonized, not just partly decarbonized. And completely decarbonized is what we desperately need for the environment”.

While renewables are growing at an impressive pace since recently, nuclear energy is currently still the largest zero carbon source of energy. Given their ‘green character’ nuclear and renewables are crucial parts of future energy system, capable of providing clean and secure power. In an ‘integrated’ energy mix, nuclear power will be able to provide affordable and secure energy for industry-intensive spheres and hubs, while renewables can cover local demands.

The electricity production from the plants can be lowered when good wind and solar resources are available and cranked up when the demand is high. The flexible character of an integrated energy mix has the potential to make integrated energy systems more responsive to changing market dynamics.

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