PublicationJournal Article Strategic siting and regional grid interconnections key to low-​​carbon futures in African countries

Published:
March 27, 2017
Author(s):
Publication Type:
Journal Article
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Abstract:

Recent fore­casts sug­gest that African coun­tries must triple their cur­rent elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion by 2030. Our mul­ti­cri­te­ria assess­ment of wind and solar poten­tial for large regions of Africa shows how eco­nom­i­cally com­pet­i­tive and low-environmental–impact renew­able resources can sig­nif­i­cantly con­tribute to meet­ing this demand. We cre­ated the Mul­ti­cri­te­ria Analy­sis for Plan­ning Renew­able Energy (MapRE) frame­work to map and char­ac­ter­ize solar and wind energy zones in 21 coun­tries in the South­ern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the East­ern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and find that poten­tial is sev­eral times greater than demand in many coun­tries. Sig­nif­i­cant frac­tions of demand can be quickly served with “no-​​regrets” options—or zones that are low-​​cost, low-​​environmental impact, and highly acces­si­ble. Because no-​​regrets options are spa­tially het­ero­ge­neous, inter­na­tional inter­con­nec­tions are nec­es­sary to help achieve low-​​carbon devel­op­ment for the region as a whole, and inter­con­nec­tions that sup­port the best renew­able options may dif­fer from those planned for hydropower expan­sion. Addi­tion­ally, inter­con­nec­tions and select­ing wind sites to match demand reduce the need for SAPP-​​wide con­ven­tional gen­er­a­tion capac­ity by 9.5% in a high-​​wind sce­nario, result­ing in a 6–20% cost sav­ings, depend­ing on the avoided con­ven­tional tech­nol­ogy. Strate­gic selec­tion of low-​​impact and acces­si­ble zones is more cost effec­tive with inter­con­nec­tions com­pared with solu­tions with­out inter­con­nec­tions. Over­all results are robust to mul­ti­ple load growth sce­nar­ios. Together, results show that mul­ti­cri­te­ria site selec­tion and delib­er­ate plan­ning of inter­con­nec­tions may sig­nif­i­cantly increase the eco­nomic and envi­ron­men­tal com­pet­i­tive­ness of renew­able alter­na­tives rel­a­tive to con­ven­tional generation.

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