The IEEE Power Africa Conference was hosted in Accra, Ghana in June this year and had a theme of “Harnessing Energy, Information and Communication Technology for Affordable Electrification of Africa.” Two members of the Energy for Development team attended to present their recent work on energy options appraisals and microgrid optimisation.
Africa remains the second fastest growing economy in the world, at a rate of 3.6% compared to the 3.1% global GDP growth rate, however the electrical infrastructure still needs improvement with an overall electrification rate of 40% and some countries as low as 9%. Health services, education, income generating activities and job creation are all impacted by electricity, however according to the African Development Bank, 640 million Africans still lack access to this basic human need.
The conference brought together experts from government, industry and academia to discuss advances in the African electricity sector to build solutions for both on-grid and off-grid systems across the continent that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable. The conference covered keynotes, plenary sessions, oral presentations tutorials and workshops and participants included representatives from companies, R&D organisations, universities and financial institutions from around the world.
Aran Eales presented a paper called “Electricity Access Options Appraisal in Malawi: Dedza District Case Study” which outlined an energy audit conducted for the Dedza district in Malawi. The study involved a literature review; solar, wind and hydro resource assessment; household and business surveys; focus group discussions and expert interviews to gather primary and secondary data. A decision making tool was developed to score and rank renewable energy technologies based on defined input criteria, and recommendations were drawn out regarding appropriate technology choices for rural areas. The paper was based on the Enhancing Governance, Advocacy, Growth and Energy in Dedza Programme which was conducted with Concern Universal in Malawi in 2016.
Steven Nolan presented “Optimized network planning of mini-grids for the rural electrification of developing countries” which aimed at minimizing the cost of system implementation. To do this a software program was created within Matlab that used Multi-Objective Particle Swarm Optimization (MOPSO) to minimise the cost of the generation sources while maintaining supply constraints. In addition to minimising the cost of supply, the distribution infrastructure costs were minimised through the use of a Genetic Algorithm that optimized the network topology while ensuring that the voltage levels at each nodes never dropped below standard requirements for power quality. These methods were then applied to a case study of a charity school compound in the Tamil Nadu region of India.
Several useful contacts with academics and industry representatives were made which will likely lead to future research projects. We look forward to submitting abstracts for next year’s event.