Africa is still facing a serious problem of energy access. Schneider Electric, a vendor for digital transformation of energy management and automation, has taken the first step in creating an African mini-grid industry involving decentralised electricity generation and distribution networks based on renewable energy. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with EM-ONE Energy Solutions, a Nigerian sustainable energy engineering company.
On the African continent, many cities remain off-grid. With a population of more than 200 million, Nigeria is a country comprising 36 states, only one of which has an electricity network. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, West Africa’s energy consumption could quadruple by 2030 to reach 219 TWh a year, less than half of the 478 TWh already consumed in France in 2018.
Part of the solution will come from mini-grids, decentralised networks powered by photovoltaic energy. Demand is high: an estimated 200,000 mini-grids are required to power the continent and reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. Schneider Electric, which produces mini-grids at its factory in Kenya, has decided to take its efforts to the next level.
“Rather than importing mini-grids produced in Europe, Asia or North America, we want to create an African mini-grid industry with operators, integrators, investors and local jobs,” commented Paul-François Cattier, Schneider Electric’s Vice President Business Development Africa and Middle East.
In the past 10 years, the Group has already installed 700 mini-grids in Africa, mainly for rural electrification, through its Access to Energy programme. This has largely been achieved with donations to NGOs and equipment often produced in Europe.
For 18 months, led by its sustainability department, the Group has been working to set up an industry based on mini-grids built or operated by local stakeholders. This has led to a first MoU with EM-ONE Energy Solutions, a Nigerian company that also operates in Canada.
“EM-ONE Energy Solutions has already won a contract for 30 mini-grids in Nigeria to power hospitals in Kaduna State and is also targeting the university and rural electrification market. The MoU concerns Schneider’s support with optimising the architecture of these projects and developing an industrial platform to integrate these mini-grids into containers in Nigeria and manufacture Schneider Electric mini-grid solutions under license,” explained Cattier.
With 12 sales representatives spread out over 12 countries Chad, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, and others, Schneider Electric is seeking engineering procurement and construction companies to locally produce its solutions – example Villaya Community, a mini-grid designed for rural electrification, providing 7-63 kW of power. Schneider Electric will provide them with advice on setting up an industrial plant and testing.
The Group is also working with public and private funding bodies. It intends to cover the full range of needs with capacities up to 500 kW enough to power a city of 10,000 inhabitants in Africa through its standardised solutions, and from 500 kW to 20 MW through specific architectures for cities of several hundred thousand inhabitants that are without an electricity grid.
“Africa today is comparable to China 40 years ago. In 2050, it will account for 30% of the global population according to the United Nations and could be one of the world’s top 5 economic powers by 2050,” explained Cattier.
The potential for electrification is enormous, not only in rural areas but also for companies who would like their own reliable electricity grid, including banks and their network of agencies and cash dispensers, food and beverage manufacturers, data centres and even electricity providers that currently use power generators and need to switch to hybrid energy production with mini-grids.
Schneider Electric is driving the digital transformation of energy management and automation in homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries. With a global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider Electric is a vendor in power management, medium voltage, low voltage and secure power, and in automation systems.
- Schneider Electric is creating an African mini-grid industry involving decentralised electricity generation based on renewable energy.
- Schneider Electric intends to help create an African mini-grid industry based on renewable energy.
- MoU with EM-ONE Energy Solutions is the result of policy introduced 18 months ago.
- EM-ONE Energy Solutions has won a contract for 30 mini-grids in Nigeria to power hospitals in Kaduna State.
- The MoU covers optimising the architecture of projects and developing a platform to integrate mini-grids into containers.