Best buys for Africa: Solar energy for unreliable urban grids
Africa is plentiful in renewable energy resources, especially solar. These resources are well spread across the continent and could contribute to secure and affordable supplies of energy where they are in high demand such as urban areas. A long-term vision to support effective investment in renewable energy is paramount to safeguard the effective use of available regional resources by both countries as well as regional groups. A hybrid energy system such as LPG and solar can be applied successfully in urban areas where grid connections are unreliable, not available or considered uneconomical. This research article aims to conduct cost-benefit analysis of interventions targeting low urban electrification rates in Africa through regional energy parks with the hybrid system. The intervention focuses on improving energy access in urban areas. Nairobi and Accra are used as a case study. The city of Nairobi, Kenya, and City of Accra, Ghana were chosen due to their geographic and climate characteristics which create optimal conditions for the development of PV and LPG gas reticulation, and therefore of a system that allow for the full integration of RES hybrid via Feed-in Tariff or net metering in the distribution grid. The shared energy park project’s innovation components may be summarised as follows: 1 MW Solar plant smart monitoring & metering system, solar water Pumping, treatment and smart refilling, Shared Solar Cooling & Refrigeration at the park, 10 Ton LPG ATM integration and smart gas distribution cylinders, storage based on Li-Ion battery technology, EV charging infrastructure, and home energy consumption monitoring equipment. The analysis of the system indicates that regional energy park will have a net benefit of US$6,662,608 at a 5% discounted rate with a benefit-cost ratio of 3.256 an indication that the proposed intervention is economically feasible.