More youth and women to get involved in energy issues

The just concluded Africa Energy Indaba, which took place in February 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, had some firsts, including it's first-ever African Youth Energy Innovator exhibition where young people had the chance to showcase energy innovations, and the launching of the energyDRIVE initiative that will start educating the public about renewable energy and related technologies.

Africa Energy Indaba, which became the first energy conference in Africa to launch the Women In Energy initiative that seeks to bring together women in the sector and encourage their participation in the various sectors of energy, also hosted various keynote addresses, presentations and panel discussions on energy. It also provided a platform for those involved in IPP projects and funding emerging market projects to discuss opportunities and challenges in an increasingly volatile global economy.

The event attracted more than 10 Africa energy ministers, more than 60 African and global energy leaders, 600 delegates and 100 exhibitors and resulted in real energy decision making, concluding of many energy deals and establishment of important energy partnerships, said Managing Director of Africa Energy Indaba, Liz Hart.

Youth exhibition

The first-ever African Youth Energy Innovator exhibition aimed at encouraging participation of youths in energy sectors, recognizing that their knowledge, expertise and participation will help in accelerated renewable energy adoption by future generations. It also aimed at connecting young innovators to strategic partners. Patrick Akpan's energy efficient fruit palm sterilizer won the first award for best African energy innovation.

“For me it’s like waking up from a dream," said Akpan. "This idea was conceived some years back and I did some work on it, but since I was not getting support on it, I left it on the shelf. Now, I can see a brighter horizon and I’ve met a couple of people at the exhibition who said they would like to work with me to see what can be done on it, and so I see the product going to the market in the near future.”

Other innovations exhibited included photovoltaic blinds, desalination using hydro energy and an energy saving game app. The energy saving game app -- EED -- teaches people how to save electricity in a fun way.

"Africa needs to invest in and grow its next generations of energy leaders if its countries and the broader continent are to compete in the global arena. Africa Energy Indaba is committed to empowering talented young Africans by allowing them to be seen by the industry experts and energy decision makers,” said Deveena Subramony, the Campaign Manager of the Africa Energy Indaba Exhibition.

Read more on Youth and Climate Change on Cleanleap.

Women In Energy

With research showing that overcoming gender inequality and gender-related legal restrictions can increase annual GDP growth in sub-Sahara by 0.75 percent, the third Women in Energy conference helped bring together women from various sectors of energy across Africa and encourage their participation in energy leadership.

The conference provided a platform for women to network, share knowledge in the area of energy, deliberate on how to increase their participation in energy sectors and encourage advancement of women across all sectors of the energy industry. This year, the theme was ‘Developing African women leaders to create our energy future.’

“If more women were represented in the continent’s energy sectors – which are responsible for providing electricity access to improve the quality and standard of living – then many more people would have access to quality education and healthcare,” said Women in Energy MD Liz Hart.

In addition to the conference, Africa Energy Indaba saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority (EWSETA) and Women in Oil and Energy South Africa, for the two to collaborate in empowering women in the energy sector through development of skills and capacity development.

energyDRIVE initiative

EWSETA unveiled the energyDRIVE project -- the first-ever in the country -- which is a custom-designed mobile unit truck fitted with renewable energy equipment such as a solar roof structure, a wind turbine system, bio-digester, a battery bank TV, display cupboards and interactive energy demo models. It will move all around the country in road shows, rural schools and colleges educating the masses and demoing how renewable energy works.

The energyDrive project also aims at promoting skilled training courses in energy related fields. “It’s imperative that we educate rural communities on what this means," said EWSETA Corporate Services Executive, Candice Moodley. "With our energyDRIVE truck, communities are able to see how renewable technology works, for example what a solar panel looks like, understanding how it can help them with energy access, and how they can use waste to generate energy to power up a stove so they can cook.”

It will promote absorption of youths into renewable energy sector careers such as solar photovoltaic installer or solar power plant technician, or a wind energy engineer by boosting interest. The unit was designed by Durban University of Technology (DUT).

Image title: energyDRIVE truck Image courtesy: EWSETA

Better technology, better policy and newer business models needed 

The conference saw participants exchange ideas on energy issues and technologies such as energy storage space. Microgrids, clean energy techs and solutions present an important aspect of advancing energy access and Africa need to recognize that, according to Chair of INDABA Brian Statham from SANEA.

With research showing that lead-acid batteries will be the predominant energy storage solution through 2025, it was important that participants exchanged ideas on what to expect in the area of energy storage arena, and how that can be combined with mobile banking, innovative renewable energy technologies, innovative business models and high-efficient appliances to scale up renewable energy in the continent.

Participants also discussed how to attract funds in the Africa's energy sector and the role of private sector in Africa's energy scene. More investments are needed even from the private sector to help boost energy access in Africa since, although development funds important, they are not sufficient to reach the Sustainable Development Goals targets according to AfDB. Participants heard that the energy's private sector needs to focus more on the end user's needs and release domestic resources of finance instead of merely waiting on donor funds.

Also in attendance were various misters from different African governments. A high level ministerial dialogue under the title 'Africa’s shifting energy trilemma’ debated on how Africa leaders can confront the trade-offs between three factors to increase energy access, namely energy security, social equity (energy access and affordability) and environmental impact mitigation, especially through better policies. While Africa needs to deploy most carbon effective, resource-efficient and resilient solutions at scale to achieve secure, equitable and environmentally viable energy systems, clear leadership, regional integration and collaboration was necessary according to Liz Hart.

"The Indaba attempts to address this lack by connecting people and rainmakers who can boost sector development on a regional scale. We bring together politicians and energy luminaries to envision, collaborate and then catalyze the decisions that will unlock and unblock access to energy, and therefore enable growth and prosperity," she said.

The forum was presented by SANEA, in association with the World Energy Council and NEPAD.