Electrifying the Nation
Read the interview with Angola’s Ministry of Energy and Water João Baptista Borges planning to boost national electricity access to 60 percent through grid expansion and large-scale renewable energy projects.
Angola has made tremendous progress over the last two decades in boosting electricity access throughout the country. What are the Ministry’s key objectives going forward?
The long-term strategy for Angola’s energy sector, outlined in the Angola Energy 2025 Vision and Electric Sector Transformation Process, centers on the growth of generation capacity and grid expansion, as well as the mobilization of private capital with a view to diversify the national economy. Our objective is ambitious: to raise the country’s power generation capacity by more than two and a half times by 2025 and install 5,100km of new power cables. We aim to significantly increase power production and reduce the deficit that exists in terms of electricity supply, which was the reason behind power cuts that caused many constraints to consumers.
How does the Ministry foresee Angola’s energy supply and demand curves shifting between now and 2025?
In terms of demand, we expect a substantial increase in energy consumption until 2025, reaching a load of 7.2 GW, which is more than four times the present load. This will come as a result of rising residential consumption, government efforts to boost electricity access rates to 60 percent, growth of national wealth through the services sector and rising industrialization. Increasing demand will be met both through the expansion of the national grid and rural electrification. In terms of supply, Angola is augmenting its power generation capacity through the construction of larger hydropower plants, thermal energy and new renewables. Angola boasts exceptional hydro resources, which will be utilized by projects such as the 2.1 GW Luáca hydroelectric facility. Thermal sources of energy will be harnessed by projects such as the 6.3 MW Soyo gas combined cycle plant, which can enable the power system to operate with a lower fuel cost and lower level of emissions.
What role can renewable energy play in meeting rising energy demand?
Renewable energy can make a sizeable impact, specifically when it comes to bringing power to off-grid communities. Less than one-third of the population has access to the national grid, and as a result, we have been working on various photovoltaic projects that are enabling the functioning of schools, health centers and police stations in these communities at night. For example, 500 solar villages will be installed by 2025 in off-grid main villages and other settlements. Solar energy carries the highest potential for renewables in Angola, as it is the most evenly distributed throughout the territory, with more than 17 GW of potential energy mapped and studied by MINEA. As a result of solar and large and medium-sized hydropower projects, Angola plans to achieve more than 70 percent installed renewable capacity – one of the highest percentages in the world. Angola will thus be on a level playing field with the top countries within the Southern Africa Development Community, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in terms of installed renewable power and carbon dioxide emissions.
China is the largest sovereign source of investment in Africa’s energy, infrastructure and industrial sectors. What are the Ministry’s plans to translate Chinese and other investment into long-term social and economic development for Angola?
China is a special country for Angola, representing substantial investment in our infrastructure, energy and industrial capabilities. That said, we want to diversify and attract investment from other countries as well, specifically Japan, Europe and the U.S. Our sector will benefit from this in terms of prioritizing countries that have the capacity to transfer technology and enterprise. Diversifying the energy sector away from crude oil is critical, and to do this, we need to improve our basic infrastructure and access to electricity and water to attract industry; to do this, we need technical assistance and capital investment from developed countries to help build power stations, power grids and transformer stations. It is a cyclical process.
To achieve the Angola Energy 2025 Vision, we need to mobilize public and private investments. The mobilization of a new investment cycle necessitates a power sector that is able to generate revenue to repay those investments in the medium- and long-term. Lower costs associated with the renewable energies can help create a financially self-sustaining sector. This vision requires a strong commitment to losses reduction, a gradual increase in electricity tariffs and a reduction of government subsidies. Public investment, which has financed most large-scale investments in water and energy infrastructure to date, will be replaced over time by long-term private financing, and will be reserved only for investments in the public sphere. This includes large dams, the national transport network and distribution areas allocated to the public utility and rural electrification.