The energy sector accounts for up to 41 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions today, and Africa contributes around 2-3%. In parallel, there are still more than 580 million people on the continent who do not have access to reliable energy and the demand for electricity is expected to continue to grow as the population increases, industrialization ambitions grow and urbanization continues to fuel the need for more energy.
To address sustainability concerns, the world is transitioning to a lower carbon energy mix at a pace never seen before. This is reflected in the total global value of investment in energy transition, including spending on new renewable energy capacity, electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure, energy storage technologies and more, reaching more than US $ 500 billion ( https://bit.ly/3be1TUv) for the first time in 2020. This was a 9 percent increase over the previous year, despite the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, while renewables are growing rapidly, the increases are not happening fast enough and are still projected to provide less than half of the world’s electricity supply by 2040.
“As Sub-Saharan Africa balances the need for greater access to energy with the push to transition to cleaner energy sources, the accelerated and strategic deployment of gas and renewable energy together can offer a no-regrets path to achieving substantial reductions in emissions quickly, while offering reliable and affordable power, ”says Elisee Sezan, CEO of GE Gas Power in Sub-Saharan Africa. A recent technical report (https://invent.ge/37i9xft) from GE titled ‘Accelerated growth in renewables and gas power can rapidly change the trajectory of climate change’ describes how gas energy can supplement energies renewables to offer decarbonization at scale in the near future. long-term, with long-term near-zero paths, while providing affordable and reliable base load power.
These solutions were discussed at a virtual media roundtable organized by GE Gas Power under the theme “Pathways to Faster Decarbonization with Gas and Renewables.” The following speakers addressed the audience: Brian Gutknecht, Marketing Lead, GE Gas Power; Jeffrey Goldmeer, director of emerging technologies – decarbonization, external programs and partnerships, GE Gas Power; Deepesh Nanda, CEO of GE Gas Power South Asia; Abdurrahman Khalidi, Chief Technology Officer, GE Gas Power, MENA and South Asia; Michael Konadu, Director of Business Growth, GE Gas Power in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The complementary attributes of gas and renewable energy
Today, we see countries in sub-Saharan Africa commit to increasing the share of renewable energy in their mix and decarbonizing their economies. South Africa recently announced three new rounds of renewable procurement totaling 6,800MW through 2021. Nigeria’s National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy aims to add 10GW of renewable energy connected to the grid by 2030. Kenya, Senegal , Ghana and Angola have similar ambitions. Gas power offers a number of advantages to support this growth in renewable energy throughout the region.
Gas is becoming more abundant, available and affordable, and it is expected to become even more so in the coming years, offering countries energy on demand at a relatively low cost. It offers the cleanest means of energy production of all traditional fossil fuels, with only less than half the carbon dioxide emissions of coal. Additionally, gas offers pathways for future conversion to low or near zero carbon with hydrogen and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technologies.
Gas also provides reliable, available capacity that is available regardless of the time of day, season, or weather; This is essential for the stability of the network, since a very high penetration of renewable energies can cause instability of the system. Gas plants can compensate for long gaps in renewable production in ways that current battery storage technology cannot. The latter can generally be used for short-term storage (usually <8 hours) of renewable energy, while gas is inexpensive for longer-duration peak needs. In addition, gas power plants are flexible, with the ability to quickly start up, increase or decrease power and reduce to very low production levels, so that they can provide affordable and available energy that can fill the supply / demand gap. when necessary.
Gas power plants have a significantly smaller physical footprint than wind and solar power plants, allowing them to be deployed in countries with limited land and closer to centers of demand such as large urban areas, potentially reducing investments. necessary in transmission infrastructure.
Unlocking the potential of gas power technologies
Currently, there are gas power solutions that can help SSA countries reduce the environmental impact of their power generation activities. The financial, human and economic impact of weak or unimplemented power plant operations and maintenance strategies represents more than 40% of the stranded or underutilized generation capacity in the region In the most immediate short term, they can be implemented upgrade solutions to increase the production, efficiency, flexibility, service life and availability of gas power plants, while reducing fuel consumption and environmental impact. In Côte d’Ivoire (https://invent.ge/37jpqSV), GE’s MXL2 solution was installed on two GT13E2 gas turbines at the Azito Power plant, helping to improve fuel efficiency and increase total production by 30MW, the equivalent electricity needed to power up to 24,000 Ivorian homes.
Many power plants in SSA still use gas turbines that were installed and operate in simple cycle mode with efficiency levels of around 30%. Converting them to combined cycle, something that can be accomplished in as little as 16 months, can allow them to produce up to 50% more electricity using the same amount of fuel. Through digital technology, customers can also leverage insights to increase reliability and availability, reduce maintenance costs, and ensure continuity in times of uncertainty such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the medium or long term, advanced technologies should be implemented that offer greater efficiency and flexibility to equip new power generation facilities. Gas-fired power plants can often operate for thirty years or more and therefore adopt higher-efficiency technologies, such as GE’s H-class turbines (https://invent.ge/3rUx8dZ), which they have already established two world records for combined cycle efficiency. It can help power plant owners reduce emissions per megawatt of power generated for decades to come. The H-Class turbines will help power producers gain the flexibility they need to bring more renewable energy into the system and accelerate the removal of coal, ultimately reducing carbon emissions. Smaller grids can include Aeroderivative gas turbines (https://invent.ge/2Zj5xXp) and scale as energy demand expands.
In addition to combustion technologies, there are pre- and post-combustion solutions that can also aid sustainability efforts. On the pre-combustion side, there are multiple approaches to low-carbon or carbon-free fuels, including the use of hydrogen for power generation. Today, GE has fleet experience using low calorific alternative fuels, including hydrogen, for power generation. A world leader in gas turbine fuel flexibility, GE has more than 75 turbines that run on low calorific fuels, including hydrogen and natural gas blends, that accumulate more than 6 million operating hours. GE is already enabling the transition of a 485 MW combined cycle 7HA power plant in Ohio, USA (https://invent.ge/3jWr1mK), to run on carbon-free hydrogen. Long Ridge Energy Terminal, which owns the plant, is collaborating with GE and New Fortress Energy to provide carbon-free energy to customers by blending hydrogen in the gas stream and transitioning the plant to be capable of burning hydrogen. 100% green for the next decade. .
“There are critical and efficient pathways that can be taken to drive a cleaner gas energy future and we need to embrace these solutions to take decisive action to address the global climate crisis without jeopardizing Africa’s need for more affordable and reliable energy.” says Sezan. . “There is no one-size-fits-all solution and the mix of fuels and technologies required to achieve the net zero carbon targets will vary from country to country. However, there is no question that gas energy can play a critical role in helping SSA achieve faster and deeper decarbonization at scale, while closing its energy gap. “