EDF in Africa
According to the International Energy Agency, there are 1.3 billion people who do not have access to energy.
While this is a staggering statistic, it’s even more disconcerting when realizing 85 percent of these people live in rural areas, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
While many different organizations attempt to find solutions to energy accessibility in Africa, Électricité de France (EDF) has been working in the developing world since 1990 to bring electricity to those without.
The utility’s strategy is to form small, local companies that can serve communities better. EDF is focused on bringing both large and small scale renewable installations to rural communities.
With its efforts spanning the continent in 5 different countries (Botswana, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, and South Africa), how is EDF effectively managing its Africa operations?
Establishing Attainable Goals
As previously discussed, the issue with energy accessibility in Africa is a great one. When looking at the big picture, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and view fixing the problem as an impossibility. EDF is avoiding this by keeping its efforts focused and more narrow, rather than broad and encompassing.
This doesn’t mean its efforts are small, though.
The utility is realistic, yet optimistic in setting goals. In the 5 countries in which it is working, a clear objective is established. Through collection of data and an assessment of the energy situation, EDF establishes the scale of the work it will perform.
In Botswana, the area of need is a specific one. Botswana’s energy infrastructure is actually in workable condition, though barely more than half of the country’s rural areas have energy access. The country’s national utility, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC), selected EDF to helm efforts to power up these portions of the country.
EDF established the scope of the issue and determined a manageable, achievable goal: to bring electricity to 400,000 people via renewable sources over the next 10 years, with an end date of 2021. The utility set a goal of serving 50-70,000 customers by the end of the development.
These goals are scaled according to the needs of the country, and with relation to what’s achievable. In Senegal, where only 23 percent of the rural population has access to electricity, the goal for the development efforts is to supply 180,000 people with electricity.
Unlike its work in Botswana, the project in Senegal is more tightly focused, specifically on the Kaffrine-Tambacounda-Kédougou concession. This concession accounts for more than 2,000 rural villages in the central and southeastern portions of the country.
While clear objectives are important in EDF’s Africa initiatives, it’s only one portion of what makes it effective.
A Small Solution to a Big Problem
In the countries it serves, EDF isn’t attempting to build or re-build national grids. As it has been seen across the rural world, the key to energy accessibility lies in smaller, localized grids and personal forms of energy.
In Morocco, the plan is to bring electricity to 161,000 people, or 23,000 customers. To do this, the method of choice is small-scale, often single-home solar. This allows energy to reach villages and hamlets off the grid, since the installations are powered by a single PV battery.
A similar approach is being taken in Mali, but extends to businesses and schools. Installing PV panels and using them to power these facilities allows for rural communities to have access to services they would not have previously because of power inaccessibility. Also being constructed are low-voltage micro-grids using power from small diesel-fired facilities, which brings electricity to a large majority of the villages slated for upgrade.
All of these efforts involve little physical infrastructure, though these smaller grids and single-home installations require a significant amount of manpower.
Working Better Together
Despite being the name at the forefront, EDF isn’t the party directly involved with rural electrification in Africa. The company’s current approach to this challenge began in the 1990s with the creation of the Rural Electricity Service Company (RESCO) model.
This involves the creation of what EDF terms as a DSC, or Decentralized Service Company, to serve a community rather than the massive utility. This way, each DSC can tailor its approach to the regions needs and essentially be run by those who know the region best.
“The strength of these DSCs is that they are integrated in the local socio-economic fabric: they are companies governed by local law, employing local managers and personnel,” the company writes. “The difficulty involves designing sustainable projects, in other words, those capable of financing themselves and taking responsibility for their own development. Sustaining decentralized services companies in disadvantaged regions, where customers use little energy and have low financial resources, is particularly difficult. It requires the creation of a specific economic model, combining subsidies and appropriate tariffs.”
EDF’s role in the process is to take the helm in the short term, and dial things back in the long, letting the DSCs take over.
“EDF is involved as a ‘start-up aid,’ providing the capital and skills required for the creation and operation of these companies,” the company writes. “When the viability of a DSC is guaranteed, EDF transfers its entire stake to its local partner, who will be responsible for the long-term running of the company.”
Couple this with aid and energy-friendly policies from local governments, and EDFs efforts have ultimately been successful thus far.
At last measure in 2012, EDF has helped more than 450,000 people access energy. Many of these projects are still ongoing, but for now, the model of starting with a clear objective, thinking small, and most importantly, thinking locally, seem to be working well for the utility.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere