Title: ‘Social Capital in an African Energy System’
About 600 million people in Africa don't have grid electricity and the remaining approximately 500 million people either intermittent and / or expensive electricity and energy.
Politicians and others spend a lot of time telling us that in order to have growth we need infrastructure, that we need "base load" and that we need very big power stations. But finding trained staff for coal and nuclear power stations, for their build, operation and maintenance is proving difficult. What 21st Century techniques can we use to solve this problem?
Three key takeaways:
1. A different way of thinking
2. What existing knowledge can be rapidly utilised and enhanced to grow energy in Africa?
3. People as Infrastructure.
My latest research work is on what I'm calling "A Social Revolution: Staffing the Energy Revolution in Africa". See https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/staffing-roof-top-solar-revolution-south-africa-david-lipschitz
Essentially we have the technology. And it is cheaper than most Africans already spend on electricity, which is more than 50 US cents per kWh for people using generators. Even though many Africans are "poor", in my experience this is because they typically aren't connected to any of the established grids, and because they don't pay tax.
And we have the finance. There is no shortage of international and local companies and investment banks that are interested in (solar) leasing in Africa.
The problem is finding the people to make the 1000's of GW that are needed to power Africa, and get its 600 million people without energy onto grids, and then reliably and relatively inexpensively and quickly supplying the other 400 million people with electricity. At the same time we also need to solve the water crisis and this can also be solved with the kinds of skills we already have in Africa. Africans are incredibly resourceful, but IMHO they feel "out of it" in a "modern" world, but I believe the changes to a Prosumer way of life is changing this.
And so we have a problem convincing people that there is a way to solve this problem, assuming that we have the technology and the finance is available.
Africa's populations are generally undereducated in the kinds of "base-load" technologies that are being sold to them, hence major corruption due to misunderstandings of both the technology and the possibilities. Imagine an Africa with "infinite" energy. It takes decades and millions of Pounds to train a nuclear or coal engineer. It can take six months to train a fully qualified PV or wind turbine or solar water heater installer.
And it can take a decade to build a coal or nuclear or hydro power station. Some of Africa's potential projects have been on the drawing boards for decades.
Roof top PV can be installed and running in under a day. This lends itself to massive and sustainable scaleability.