The State of Energy in Africa

A panel at Collision Conference today looked at the state of the energy grid in Africa. The panellists are involved in bringing sustainable energy solutions to the continent in various ways.

The artist Akon has founded Akoin to help people better deal with currency complications throughout the continent. The profits from the company are then used to fund solar installations so the coin and the continent can run sustainably.

The AKoin Ecosystem unlocks the potential of the world’s largest emerging economy through the creation of a stable currency and innovative, revenue-generating opportunities that stimulate and support youth entrepreneurship, economic stability, and growth across Africa and the world.

Jesse Moore from M-Kopa has built a solar panel company that sells solar energy directly to consumers. They’ve brought electricity to over 750,000 houses and are open to skipping the electricity grid entirely. Customers can’t afford the full installation but they they can afford to pay for electricity as it’s needed without having to connect to a larger system.

The future of sustainable energy in Africa is looking bright!

Solar is Booming in Australia

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Solar in places with a lot of sun might seem like a no-brainer; yet in Australia it’s taken a long time for the idea to take off. This year is clearly going to be a turning a point for solar in the sunny nation based of the already exploding demand for solar installations. It’s great to see that solar has gotten so cheap that it’s being installed at such a high rate and that at least one nation has reached a tipping point around the culture acceptance of solar power.

“These solar farms can be built within a matter of weeks,” he said. “They’re really quick and simple.”

Together, the new large-scale projects could add between 2.5GW and 3.5GW to the national grid and rooftop installations could add another 1.3GW, according to the Smart Energy Council’s estimates. This would nearly double the nation’s solar energy capacity, currently 7GW, in a single year.

“The train tracks are about to converge,” Grimes said. “Rooftop installations and utilities are both booming and could turbo-boost the solar numbers overall.”

In Queensland, residential solar panels are already the state’s largest source of energy, producing more combined than the 1.7GW Gladstone power station. Just under a third (30%) of residential homes in the state have solar installed – the most in the country.

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As Oil Industry Declines, Workers Turn to Solar

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The tar sands in Alberta is killing a Canadian climate-friendly future and the people who work there have also realized that jobs in the tar sands isn’t their future. A new not-for profit, Iron and Earth, is building a sustainable future for the climate and for workers. The worker led cooperative takes people who want out of the unstable oil economy into the growing field of renewable energy installations.

Iron and Earth is now running short solar training programs for oil and gas workers who want new options. “Our approach is really that so many of the tradespeople that work in the oil sands are highly skilled, and really require only a few days of specialized training for solar energy and potentially other renewable energy technologies as well,” Hildebrand says.
In the first five-day course, in October, 15 trainees installed solar panels at a community daycare on tribal land in Alberta. A similar course happened in November. The organization plans to train 1,000 oil and gas workers in its first campaign.

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A Solar Solution on Indian Railways

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The largest railway system in the world runs in India and it consumes a lot of energy to run it. Back when oil was more expensive they started looking into way to lower their fuel bill from using biofuel to solar. Today, they are running one solution that will save money in the first year of operations – putting solar panels on the roof of the train carriages. The panels will collect energy and store it in batteries instead of the current approach is using an additional diesel engine to power the carriages.

The rooftop solar system was developed by Noida-based Jakson Engineers, under the direction of the Indian Railways Organisation for Alternate Fuels (IROAF). “It is not an easy task to fit solar panels on the roof of train coaches that run at a speed of 80 km per hour. Our engineering skills were put to a real test during the execution of this rooftop solar project for Indian Railways,” Sundeep Gupta, vice-chairman and managing director of Jakson Engineers told the Business Standard newspaper. Established in 2008, the IROAF initially focused on bio-diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) to help diversify Indian Railways’ fuel mix, before looking at solar.
Indian Railways has ambitious plans for solar. By 2020, the state-run transportation network plans to generate around 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power, which could be scaled up to 5,000 MW by 2025. These numbers are not only significant for the railways, given that it’ll help bring down the fuel bill, but will also impact India’s overall renewable energy goal of 175 gigawatt (1 GW = 1,000 MW) by 2022.

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More Americans Working in Solar Than in Coal

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The coal industry is failing and sustainable alternatives are on the rise. No matter what politicians do to try and “save” coal it’s clear that the dirty source of electricity is on its way out. A recent report revealed that in the USA more people are employed by the solar industry than in the coal industry. Solar only provides 1.3% of America’s electricity yet it is more of a job provider than coal is. If somebody (like the president) wants to create more jobs in the USA than maybe supporting solar is the way to do it.

To put this all in perspective: “Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas, over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy, and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy,” the report notes. “Only oil/petroleum has more employment (by 38%) than solar.”

Now, mind you, comparing solar and coal is a bit unfair. Solar is growing fast from a tiny base, which means there’s a lot of installation work to be done right now, whereas no one is building new coal plants in the US anymore. (Quite the contrary: Many older coal plants have been closing in recent years, thanks to stricter air-pollution rules and cheap natural gas.) So solar is in a particularly labor-intensive phase at the moment. Still, it’s worth thinking through what these numbers mean.

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