Eskom CEO calls for ‘super grid’ to power up sub-Saharan Africa

May 14, 2013 - By Kim Cloete -

The CEO of South African power utility Eskom, Brian Dames, said on Tuesday that countries in sub-Saharan Africa should work together to establish a “super grid” to boost electricity supply in the power-starved region.

Dames told several thousand delegates at African Utility Week, under way in Cape Town, that Africa’s power sector was woefully behind the rest of the world, with energy consumption per capita only one per cent of that of high-income countries.

“There is a potential for Africa to shine, but we need to focus,” he said. “We need to build a super grid in the region and work with many utilities to achieve this.”

Delivering the keynote address, Dames said countries needed to invest far more in energy infrastructure through a regional plan.

“We all tend to want to do things on our own. But we need to move from a national to a regional perspective. We must find a better balance between centralisation and decentralisation if we want to make a difference to energy in Africa.”

Dames said Eskom was keen to expand its infrastructure in the region.

“If we connect ourselves through a regional grid through Eskom, we can take advantage of the global appetite for emerging markets.”

Dames said African countries tended to invest only in generation, but needed to spend more on transmission infrastructure for the continent to develop further.

The Eskom CEO also saw huge potential in gas, and described it as a potential game-changer for both South Africa and the region. “It’s a lot less carbon intensive than fossil fuels and is cost effective.

Anton Eberhard, a professor at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, told delegates that more than half of the companies in Africa had to rely on back-up generators because of the high number of power outages.

He called for more focus to be placed on competition and private investment in energy in Africa.

“We need sources from both the public and private sector, as well as far more effective regulation of the sector.”

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said more should be done to develop hydropower.

Hydropower development is extremely low, with just 7% of the continent’s potential developed. The continent’s per capita water exploitation is the lowest of the sub-regions of the world, being just one-quarter of the global average.”

African Utility Week has drawn together nearly 5 000 power professionals across Africa’s water and power sectors. The conference is seen as an opportunity for financiers in the sector, as well as for companies to showcase their projects.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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