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You have worked in the Oil and Gas sector for more than 25 years. In recent years you have switched to clean Energy ... what made the switch ?

It was just curiosity, willingness to learn, and getting involved into power and electricity sectors. But you know that Renewable Energy does not mean clean energy ...


If I take the example of solar photovoltaic panels : to maintain them, you have to use detergents. A company that manages a solar panel plant in dry areas with lot of dust, has to setup a water treatment system to ensure that the water with detergents does not get into the soil underneath the panels and contaminate underground waters while operating a plant for decades.
You also have to understand that you cannot recycle solar panels. Heavy metals like cadmium and lead are found in solar cells, which can harm the natural environment if they are not disposed properly. Solar energy is a renewable energy because of the sun but it is not a clean energy.

 

Renewable energies are more valuable solutions with regards to the environment but their cleanness will depend on how a company manages and recycles the components that are replaced, and also how they treat and dispose water used to clean panels.

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Milko Moussirou during the Forum in Marrakech | Source Lattitude Monde

What are the potentials in term of renewable energy on the continent ?

The potential are mainly solar, wind and geothermal. You also have hydro electricity and biomass from agriculture waste but, I prefer to separate these two sources as they are water dependent. With the actual climate change some countries will experience less rain and lower river flow.


One important thing that I would like to stress is all above options are not applicable everywhere in Africa. For the wind energy it is more obvious because you use them only where you have enough wind to make your plant commercial. But for solar you need to focus in regions with good sun exposure all year around. In tropical / equatorial countries, the solar option is more challenging for two reasons. You lose efficiency due to clouds and the maintenance costs will be huge because of the regular damage from heavy rains, storms and lightening.


The geothermal potential is mainly located in areas with tectonic activities: it goes from Ethiopia, through Kenya, east Uganda, west Tanzania, along the East African Lakes region and ends in the north East of South Africa.

What do we need to do in Africa to unleash the renewable energy potential ?

First of all, we have to focus at a country level. Every country has its own potential source(s) of renewable energy.


Secondly, we always talk about the lobbies behind the Oil & Gas industry slowing down the transition towards renewable technologies. This is true but, what I realized the past years is that you also have lobbies inside the renewable sector. These lobbies are supporting and promoting solar PV and conventional horizontal axis wind turbines, as huge investments in those have been done in the past. People are not well informed and do not know that other options more suitable for them might exist. For example, a country or client looking for a solution in the equatorial forest might be offered a solar PV option that is challenging in this environment. Not only because of what we have mentioned before, but also due to the fact that the panels will take over arable land.


A last but not least important point, countries also have to understand that the solution is not always a big plant with a large investment to increase the capacity of the national grid, but could also be micro grid or off grid solutions for countries with a complex topography where the population is isolated.


Koval Energy focuses also on these smaller solutions and tries to propose alternative technologies that are “outside the lobbies” solutions and could fit better in certain situations.