The share of renewable energy that achieved lower costs than the most competitive fossil fuel option doubled in 2020, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows. 162 gigawatts (GW) or 62 per cent of total renewable power generation added last year had lower costs than the cheapest new fossil fuel option.
Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020 shows that costs for renewable technologies continued to fall significantly year-on-year. Concentrating solar power (CSP) fell by 16 per cent, onshore wind by 13 per cent, offshore wind by 9 per cent and solar PV by 7 per cent. With costs at low levels, renewables increasingly undercut existing coal’s operational costs too. Low-cost renewables give developed and developing countries a strong business case to power past coal in pursuit of a net-zero economy. Just 2020’s new renewable project additions will save emerging economies up to USD 156 billion over their lifespan.
“Today, renewables are the cheapest source of power,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables present countries tied to coal with an economically attractive phase-out agenda that ensures they meet growing energy demand, while saving costs, adding jobs, boosting growth and meeting climate ambition. I am encouraged that more and more countries opt to power their economies with renewables and follow IRENA’s pathway to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”
“We are far beyond the tipping point of coal,” La Camera continued. “Following the latest commitment by G7 to net-zero and stop global coal funding abroad, it is now for G20 and emerging economies to match these measures. We cannot allow having a dual-track for energy transition where some countries rapidly turn green and others remain trapped in the fossil-based system of the past. Global solidarity will be crucial, from technology diffusion to financial strategies and investment support. We must make sure everybody benefits from the energy transition.”
The renewable projects added last year will reduce costs in the electricity sector by at least USD 6 billion per year in emerging countries, relative to adding the same amount of fossil fuel-fired generation. Two-thirds of these savings will come from onshore wind, followed by hydropower and solar PV. Cost savings come in addition to economic benefits and reduced carbon emissions. The 534 GW of renewable capacity added in emerging countries since 2010 at lower costs than the cheapest coal option are reducing electricity costs by around USD 32 billion every year.
2010-2020 saw a dramatic improvement in the competitiveness of solar and wind technologies with CSP, offshore wind and solar PV all joining onshore wind in the range of costs for new fossil fuels capacity, and increasingly outcompeting them. Within ten years, the cost of electricity from utility-scale solar PV fell by 85 per cent, that of CSP by 68 per cent, onshore wind by 56 per cent and 48 per cent for offshore wind. With record low auction prices of USD 1.1 to 3 cents per kWh today, solar PV and onshore wind continuously undercut even the cheapest new coal option without any financial support.
IRENA’s report also shows that new renewables beat existing coal plants on operating costs too, stranding coal power as increasingly uneconomic. In the United States for example, 149 GW or 61 per cent of the total coal capacity costs more than new renewable capacity. Retiring and replacing these plants with renewables would cut expenses by USD 5.6 billion per year and save 332 million tonnes of CO2, reducing emissions from coal in the United States by one-third. In India, 141 GW of installed coal is more expensive than new renewable capacity. In Germany, no existing coal plant has lower operating costs than new solar PV or onshore wind capacity.
Globally, over 800 GW of existing coal power costs more than new solar PV or onshore wind projects commissioned in 2021. Retiring these plants would reduce power generation costs by up to USD 32.3 billion annually and avoid around 3 giga tonnes of CO2 per year, corresponding to 9 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 or 20 per cent of the emissions reduction needed by 2030 for a 1.5°C climate pathway outlined in IRENA’s World Energy Transitions Outlook.
The outlook till 2022 sees global renewable power costs falling further, with onshore wind becoming 20-27 per cent lower than the cheapest new coal-fired generation option. 74 per cent of all new solar PV projects commissioned over the next two years that have been competitively procured through auctions and tenders will have an award price lower than new coal power. The trend confirms that low-cost renewables are not only the backbone of the electricity system, but that they will also enable electrification in end-uses like transport, buildings and industry and unlock competitive indirect electrification with renewable hydrogen.
Sunna Design Wins A €40 Million Contract to Deploy Solar Street Lighting in Rural Togo
Sunna Design, leader in connected solar lighting solutions, has signed a 40 million euro contract with the Government of Togo for the supply and installation over 24 months, and then maintenance over 12 years, of 50,000 intelligent street lamps. This contract, funded by the General Directorate of the French Treasury, is part of the larger project CIZO (“switch on the light” in mina language), which aims at electrifying 500,000 rural households, about 1.5 million inhabitants in 1,000 villages.
A pillar of Togo’s NDP (National Development Plan) deployed by the Togolese presidency, CIZO aims to speed up the modernization of the country, including ensuring universal access to electricity by 2030.
Connected lighting, a key step for rural development
Public lighting grids have an impact on rural communities’ life conditions and strengthening of the economy, by facilitating passenger and goods transport, pedestrian traffic, night work, as well as drastically reducing road accident rates and insecurity.
Solar street lights are autonomous and resilient energy sources, and the only relevant technical-economic solution to bring appropriate public lighting and connection services to off-grid areas. In Togo – where only 8% of the 8.3 million residents are connected to the grid – access to energy is a key factor for economical development. The challenge is also to promote geographical balance, in response to an unbridled urbanization phenomenon in Sub-Saharan Africa, through a planned deployment of sustainable, decentralized and smart infrastructures.
Mila Aziable, Minister Delegate to the President for Energy and Mines, says: “This partnership is the result of a shared ambition and is right in line with the Head of State’s will to achieve accessibility for all in terms of energy. We want to give a new dynamic to rural areas, make them more attractive through our contribution in all priority sectors and those of the local economy, while betting on innovative technologies adapted to our context, our time and our environment. This partnership clearly projects our country in a new dynamic, in the direction of a universal access to energy.”
Franck Riester, Minister Delegate attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, in charge of Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness: “We are proud to support Sunna Design’s sustainable public lighting project in Togo, for the benefit of more than 1.5 million inhabitants in rural areas. Under the initiative of the President of the Republic, we made Africa a priority of our international action. Central to our strategy is the will to accompany the development of infrastructures and technologies in a sustainable city. In these fields, our SMEs such as Sunna Design have an internationally recognized expertise. It is together, with our African partners, with the support of the private sector, that we must accompany the continent’s economic development.”
“The trust granted by the Togo Government – a visionary, pioneer and highly demanding partner in the fields of electrification and digitization in rural environment – acknowledges the solidity of Sunna Design’s know-how, as well as our capacity to innovate and accompany our clients over time” says Ignace de Prest, Sunna Design CEO. “That also represents a new step in our company’s transformation, now an essential partner for both urban and rural applications. The impact of the project on populations strengthens the teams’ commitment and our company’s project.”
A sustainable technological solution with a 12-year guarantee
Consisting of 50,000 connected street lights, Sunna Design’s project notably plans for:
- Solar lighting roll out in priority areas, identified and investigated beforehand via an unprecedented census study of rural infrastructures, ensuring a measurable economic and social impact of each lighting point on people
- The use of iSSL+ solutions, all-in-one connected street lights with batteries designed to resist high temperatures, produced by Sunna Design at its “Factory of the Future” labeled industrial site, in the Bordeaux region
- Operation and maintenance services during 12 years, including participation and strengthening of an ecosystem of local operators, promoting local employment
- Provision of a transparent platform for monitoring implementation and detailed performance of the solar solutions, accessible to public authorities, private and financial partners
The Togolese Agency for Rural Electrification and Renewable Energies (AT2ER), promoter of the project, was able to validate Sunna Design’s technical lead, robust equipment and track record in Sub-Saharan Africa rural areas, and finalize a unique project including performance and guarantee commitments over time.
Solar lighting related (connected) services
Sunna Design’s know-how extends beyond lighting: its solutions can integrate an ecosystem of IoT applications (connected objects), powered by the clean energy provided by Sunna Design’s intelligent solar batteries.
Autonomous and connected, these applications answer several needs in terms of connectivity, telecommunications and safety. They represent a development focus of the digital economy, another pillar of Togo’s NDP.
This innovative application has already been successfully implemented and tested by Sunna Design in Togo, in the frame of a pilot project operational since 2020, financed by the FASEP fund of the General Directorate of the Treasury. This project will allow the continuation of these experiments in some targeted areas, as well as skill improvement on the “WiFi Grid”, to offer Internet access to villages through the solar street lamps.
“This project will combine decentralized energy and broadband connectivity to provide both public lighting and Internet access to the populations. Thus, it complements our vision towards accelerating the convergence between energy and digital technology, which we will initiate by deploying optical fiber on the electric network” says Cina Lawson, Togolese Minister of Digital Economy and Technological Innovation.
A turnkey project with financing at the heart of Sunna Design’s strategy
This exemplary contract is at the core of Sunna Design’s strategy, aiming at bringing answers to its customers’ long-term issues, in the form of services. Three years after being the first company to offer Solar Lighting as a Service (SLaaS) in the United States, Sunna Design replicates the offer in Africa, and works to replicate it again. This project, carried out in Togo and financed by a direct loan from the General Directorate of the Treasury, proves that the company now has the most advanced range of technical solutions on the market, as well as the most comprehensive portfolio of services (installation, maintenance, operations, financing). This contract also marks the achievement, on a large-scale project, of the vision of solar lighting as a lever of economic and social development in rural environments, inspired by Thomas Samuel, Sunna Design’s founder, who also developed the project.
Developing African Petroleum Value Chains
Despite the global shift towards cleaner sources of fuel, the African continent – representing the highest number of people without access to energy globally – still requires fossil fuel development, if it is to meet its developmental goals. Accordingly, oil and gas-producing nations across the continent are ramping up efforts to develop a sustainable, viable and high reward petroleum sector in Africa.
Speaking at an African energy producers’ forum at African Energy Week (AEW) 2021, African oil and gas ministers provided insight into Africa’s oil potential, strategies to expand the energy value chain and opportunities for regional and international cooperation.
Opening the African energy producers’ talk, Irene Etiobhio, Senior Petroleum Industry Analyst at the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), emphasized the role of oil in Africa’s energy future. Presenting OPEC’s World Oil Outlook 2021, launched earlier this year, Etiobhio offered key insights into both Africa’s and the world’s oil outlook.
“The OPEC outlook provides an in-depth view and analysis of global oil issues. It is important to restate that the outlook is not about projections, but should be viewed as a helpful and insightful guide. Our data is based on key assumptions,” stated Etiobhio.
Alongside the presentation, African energy ministers elaborated on the role of oil in Africa. Panel participants included H.E Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of Equatorial Guinea and Hon. Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam, Deputy Minister of Energy of Ghana.
Africa’s oil and gas industry is facing a dual challenge: to satisfy growing demand for petroleum products and to outpace the deployment of alternative, non-fossil sources of energy. Taking these two challenges into consideration, the panel participants provided insight into how the sector, and oil and gas companies in particular, plan to increase production while decarbonizing industry activities.
“Oil will play a significant role in the African energy mix and will take the highest share over all forms in the future mix. However, with the demand of over 600 million without access to electricity, Africa must do this in a modern way. We must not solve one problem while creating another. Africa needs to also take care of the environment,” continued Etiobhio. “We must have a clear mandate and one voice on how we are going to meet our emissions targets. China has said that by 2060, it will achieve carbon neutrality. Europe has set its target for 2025. Africa needs to do this, as well.”
Many African countries are looking to significantly enhance production, and are therefore looking to attract investment, as well capacity enhancement, across the entire energy sector value chain. During the panel, speakers discussed how Africa can fast-track the creation of an investor friendly environment, while still increasing local capacity.
“At this stage in Africa, we have come to the realization that someone has to be responsible, and for the first time, we have to take responsibility for the sector,” stated H.E. Minister Lima. “When the lockdown started, flights and movements stopped, and many expats could not fly or work. Could we actually continue operations with just national companies? The answer was yes, and for five months, Equatorial Guinea was operating almost 90% domestically. Our installations were operated by our own people, and so it was thanks to COVID-19 that we realized this.”
“Ghanaians took over the Liquefied Natural Gas processing facility. We have built reasonable local capacity to operate this facility. I am so hopeful that there is potential for Africa to develop, but we have to start doing it. If we make the effort to develop our capacity, then we will be able to do that,” added H.E. Deputy Minister Dr Adam.
Nigerians Abandon Gas Due to Surging Prices, Resort to Firewood and Charcoal
The surge in the price of gas prices has caused many Nigerians to resort to firewood and charcoal to cook, according to an open letter written to the government by retailers of the product.
LPG imports make up about 65% of the entire market, and they are being discouraged by several factors. One of the reasons for the decrease in imports is the lack of foreign exchange. This lack of imports had then led to a large reliance on domestic supplies, according to the Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers on Monday November 8, 2021.
As at today, Nigerians are now paying up to triple the amounts they paid for gas in January 2021. A 12.5-kilogram cylinder could now cost up to N10,200 ($25) according to the NALPGAM. These fast-rising prices mean that Nigerians are now abandoning LPG to go back to firewood, charcoal and kerosene regardless of the dangerous implications on the environment and one’s health. NALPGAM said this in an open letter to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest crude oil producer, yet has refused to tap into the huge gas reserves which it possesses. Most of the country’s gas output is wasted due to inadequate infrastructure to properly exploit the resource. According to Nigeria’s official statistics agency in a 2020 report, only about 17% of the entire population make use of gas to cook; the rest make use of firewood or charcoal-fueled stoves.
The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari pleaded for international financing for what he referred to as transition fuels like gas, which will help Nigeria take more steps toward renewable energy in the future. The President said at the COP26 conference in Glasgow on November 2, that gas will be highly important in addressing the clean cooking challenge and also help to reduce deforestation. He also touted that gas will help solve the country’s long-standing problems with electricity.
NALPGAM called on the government to maintain a steady supply of the dollar to LPG importers, urging the government to suspend the planned reintroduction of VAT and Customs duties.
If the gas prices continue to rise at this rate, more Nigerians will continue to abandon gas in favour of the more harmful alternatives, until the dangerous options are recognized as the norm. The government is encouraged to take necessary action in order to prevent possible casualties to human life where possible.
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