According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, battery storage systems are emerging as one of the key solutions to effectively integrating high shares of solar and wind power within global energy systems. In addition to increasing installed power generation capacity, developing systems that offer a consistent and reliable power supply is a top priority for African nations. Accordingly, energy storage has a significant role to play in supporting stable electricity grids by augmenting generation capacity, facilitating a continent-wide energy transition and spurring growth within the renewable sector and beyond.
Ensuring Security of Supply
Energy storage developments offer a vital solution for the security of renewable energy supply. With approximately 350 GW in hydroelectric potential, 110 GW in wind, 1,000 GW in solar and 15 GW in geothermal throughout the continent, renewables have emerged as a critical solution for meeting Africa’s outstanding electricity deficit. However, one of the key challenges regarding renewable power generation concerns reliability of supply, in which natural disruptions, such as drought or lack of wind, are known to cause supply disruptions. The utilization of energy storage technologies, therefore, presents an opportunity for capturing and storing energy that can be released to meet demand on an as-needed basis. Energy storage provides a continuous flow of clean energy during periods of high demand or when renewable energy is unavailable.
Additionally, energy storage offers enhanced power accessibility for the majority of Africa’s population that lives in remote locations with limited access to national grids. The development of these energy storage technologies can enable the storage of vast amounts of electricity both on- and off-grid, offering improved methods for storing and dispatching power. The utilization of energy storage solutions not only increases renewable generation and distribution across the continent, but also offers security for those farther away from the transmission grid and more vulnerable to disruptions.
Enabling an African Energy Transition
As global pressure mounts to reduce carbon emissions from traditional fossil fuel production, renewable developments have taken off across the continent. South Africa, for example, is aiming to dramatically increase its renewable energy penetration in the market through its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Program, an integrated plan that fast-tracks renewable energy developments to provide a long-term and sustainable electricity supply. Energy storage technologies can support this shift toward clean energy by offering a more flexible and reliable grid system. By introducing flexibility into the national grid, energy storage can create efficiencies and build capabilities while fostering a diversified renewable energy mix. Storage technologies offer environmental benefits concerning the reduction in need for high-emission peak power plants. By saving electricity for when it is required, energy storage can significantly increase capacity of existing resources and reduce the need for fossil-fuel-fired power generation.
Driving Economic Growth
By incorporating energy storage technologies as part of electricity projects, Africa can boost investment within its renewable sector. Offering solutions to several of renewable energy’s primary challenges, storage technology can spur sectoral growth and fast-track economic success through establishing a reliable and consistent electricity supply. The integration of storage technology, particularly in developing countries, can increase the economic value of renewable developments and strengthen their competitiveness within emerging markets. Additionally, the consistency of electricity offered by energy storage can boost industrialization in developing countries, given that lack of a stable electricity supply represents a major challenge to growth of industry and manufacturing. What’s more, energy storage offers financial benefits to commercial and industrial enterprises by maintaining and minimizing operational costs. Energy storage systems provide companies with control over distributed energy resources, allowing businesses to save on demand charges, provide critical continued power to protect against grid variability and better incorporate renewable energy sources to foster more sustainable and economically sound business practices.
Energy storage developments can also spur job creation in developing countries through the provision of new income sources for both urban and rural populations, fast-tracking socioeconomic growth through increased standards of living. In addition to job opportunities in the energy industry, energy storage technologies can create jobs in supporting sectors such as manufacturing, engineering, construction, transportation and finance. Energy storage is an enabling technology, offering flexible and integrated electricity solutions for emerging markets. By directing its focus on the development and utilization of storage technologies, Africa’s growing power industry can fully capitalize on the benefits of renewable energies, contribute to grid stabilization and reduce the intermittence between demand and supply.