Renewable energy, a priority for African mining countries

With various fundamentals besetting the mining and energy sectors, several countries are looking at various cheaper and reliable options to remain sustainable and enhance economic growth and meet demands for their people.

With the unstable copper, coal, gold, nickel afflicting the international metal market, most African mining companies have been forced to look at various options for their source of energy due to rising energy prices and supply constraints.

They are now compelled to opt for other energy solutions that are affordable, consistent and secure and ensure sustained growth for their countries.

The mining companies have now realized that they need to explore on renewable energy integration as a means to not only address their affordability and safety of supply concerns, but also deal with broader carbon mitigation goals.

John Eccles, a director at First Solar Fuel points out that electricity is the lifeblood of all industries and that reliable electricity generation is particularly critical for the success of the mining sector, he is cited by ambriefonline.com.

While the mining industry has traditionally relied on electricity grids and on-site liquid fuel generators for its electricity needs, there is a growing worldwide understanding that solar energy is becoming more sustainable and affordable, notes John.

Some companies have already shifted to using renewable energy. An example is the African Barrick Gold (ABG), running three mines in Tanzania.

The company has been seeking renewable energy options for the last eight years according to Technical Services GM Nic Schoeman and corporate Maintenance Manager Manfred Hildebrandt.

ABG first embraced grid power from Tanexco, in its efforts to retreat from a dependence on diesel. Tanexco is wholly owned by the government of Tanzania and its energy is greener than diesel since it generates half of it from hydroenergy.

About 40 percent of the company’s energy is generated from nearby gas reserves and the rest 10 percent from thermal energy.

Therefore, in the mining sector most companies are advised to turn to renewable energy for any intended project.

It’s time to prove wrong the widely held stereotype about renewable energy only being for rich countries. Analysts say renewable energy remains the best solution for Africa’s economic growth prospects as it can transform a country that is developing fast.

In the case of Kenya for instance, energy sources have diversified since 2000, when renewable power capacity contributed 5.4 per cent of the country’s total energy mix. By 2012, this figure had grown to 16.2 per cent.

With smart planning and prudent investment, all African countries can reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and leapfrog into a sustainable future. And, as Africa makes the transition to renewable energy in the coming years, new projects will provide much-needed jobs and power economic growth.

Africa is blessed with plentiful land and natural resources. Prodigious sunshine blankets the continent for much of the year, ideal conditions for solar power. Hot rocks in areas such as the Rift Valley store geothermal energy.

Vast plains and mountain ranges are great sites for wind turbines while mighty rivers like the Zambezi can be harnessed for hydropower projects. Finally, biomass is abundant – all providing multiple opportunities for renewable energy production.

This vast potential in Africa can be realised with effective cooperation and successful projects that cross borders. This will help the world to triple its production of renewable energy by 2050 and avoid catastrophic climate change. Just as importantly, this is all possible while taking the continent to new levels of prosperity.

With its population expected to reach two billion by 2050, Africa is at a crossroads. Africa will need another 250 gigawatts of capacity between now and 2030 to meet the demands of its quickly growing populations and economies.

It can either power its surging growth with fossil fuels, which would put the world on an unsustainable path to climate change, or it can fuel development with vast renewable energy resources.

The solution to providing that energy and keeping prices in check is to tap into Africa’s clean, reliable, indigenous, affordable and abundant renewable energy sources. Renewables present an economically and environmentally beneficial framework to power the continent’s growth.

Scaling-up African energy infrastructure to accommodate the growing energy demand is necessary, but scaling it up in a smart way to include more renewable energy in the energy mix is paramount.

This has forced the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) to work with 21 African countries on the Africa Clean Energy Corridor. Irena’s initiative encourages the deployment of hydro, geothermal, biomass, wind and solar options from Cairo to Cape Town to increase capacity, stabilise the grid, and reduce fossil fuel dependency.

It is a regional approach, promoting international cooperation across countries of the eastern and southern African power pools to develop vast energy resources, optimise the energy mix and attract more investment.

The plan identifies development zones to cluster renewable plants in areas with high potential, resource planning, new financing models and knowledge and capacity building.

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