Impact of digitalization on Africa’s energy sector in post COVID-19 world

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COVID-19’s negative repercussions on Africa’s economies have highlighted the importance of achieving energy security to be capable of enduring pandemics and realizing a post-crisis economic recovery. Clean energy and the innovative technologies that accompany it, represent a critical catalyst for the continent’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, ultimately making a prominent mark on Africa’s energy sector in a post COVID world.

WHY RENEWABLES?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has recognised renewables as the only energy source set for increased demand in 2020, with solar and wind generators most opportunely placed to weather the economic storm owing to the flexibility and cost competitiveness they provide.

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The renewable sector is proving its resilience in the midst of a crisis, further reinforcing the case for economic recovery strategies to be accentuated by investments in the sustainable energy sphere. In addition, involving renewable technologies in the energy mix ensures a more flexible and reliable energy generation system.

Rapid progression in increasingly more affordable storage technologies has enabled renewable energy units to become progressively more reliable. On account of their decentralised nature, renewable projects and low-carbon technologies foster greater community inclusion than their fossil fuel counterparts, while simultaneously increasing the resilience of the energy system, providing a solution that incorporates economic recovery with a decline in emissions.

HOW DIGITALISATION CAN IMPACT AFRICA’S ENERGY SECTOR IN A POST COVID WORLD

Post COVID-19, it will be imperative for innovative solutions to address Africa’s power crisis and implement a clear strategy for the continent’s recovery. Such solutions must take into consideration the energy transition and utilisation of renewable energy, the emphasis on smart power technologies and the associated cost-effective solutions, as well as the global vision to achieve a decentralized, decarbonized, and secure energy supply that overcomes climate change and incites healthy economic growth. Employment of smart solutions will ensure more flexible and connected energy outcomes, subsequently improving the transmission and distribution lines, and ultimately assisting in meeting energy demand in African countries. Such initiatives will ensure reliable, sustainable and cost-effective electricity in the years to come, thereby ramping up Africa’s post-pandemic recovery in the process.

Digitalisation within Africa’s energy realm is set to contribute to a wealth of job opportunities, millions of which have been lost owing to the COVID-19 epidemic. Moreover, advancements in energy technologies, such as renewables, clean coal and nuclear, energy storage, off-grid technologies, smart grids, mini solar kits and small wind power plants provide an array of opportunities for new investment and development.

Furthermore, the digital realm has the capacity to upskill workers, improve capital productivity and labour efficiency as well as improve energy security, accessibility and affordability, thereby promoting economic and societal benefits which have recently been lost owing to the pandemic. In addition to this, digitalisation includes the collection and use of data to gain exhaustive insights to improve efficiency and productivity levels, further boosting the energy landscape once the pandemic has lifted.

Unprecedented times such as these call for unprecedented methods. Stimulus packages and recovery plans that include investments in renewable energy and digitalisation initiatives, low-carbon technologies, sustainable infrastructure and green job creation will ensure that this crisis can be reformed into a remarkable opportunity to create a sustainable, inclusive, resilient, just and resource-efficient society.

Africa has a significant responsibility in innovating smart power solutions for a post COVID-19 world and ensuring the provision of a sustainable and diversified energy mix. Within developing economies, there are growing opportunities to implement new technologies and localised energy generation schemes that bring about innovation, revolutionising how the world generates, stores, and distributes power. With the rise in cost-effective renewable energy, the decentralisation of energy production, and advancements in energy storage, smart metering, and various other groundbreaking digital technologies, digitalisation is set to transform the way power is generated and consumed, thereby priming Africa for a thriving energy landscape well into the future.

The Africa Energy Indaba 2021 is the summit to attend amidst all the exciting and revolutionary developments in the space that is energy. Dialogues will focus on African energy sector innovations investigating near and long-term prospects for technological advancements where decentralisation and digitalisation play a more pronounced role within the continent and how these technological progressions will, undoubtedly, impact Africa’s energy sector in a post COVID world.

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