Two French companies have taken up the challenge of taking electricity to rural Africa

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It‘s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs. And it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy. You’ve got to have power,” said US President Barrack Obama in June 2013 when he announced his country’s Power Africa initiative. But this important utility is still lacking in several parts of Africa. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nearly 97 percent of those without access to electricity live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, with the largest populations without electricity in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), among others.

In Africa today, over 25 countries suffer rolling blackouts. Rural electrification on the continent remains low at 26 percent; Orange and ENGIE want to change this. The leading telecommunications operator and the energy company have taken up the major challenge of expanding the electricity grid in Africa and encourage responsible power consumption on the continent.

ENGIE currently supplies 760 MW of power in Africa but its aim is to become one of the major energy leaders on the continent by 2025 and it has planned several major projects to achieve this. The new partnership will see ENGIE trial a range of domestic power supply solutions for rural populations that could then be marketed by Orange.

The trials will allow the two French companies to validate the technical solutions, the sales and distribution models, and the economic feasibility of the service before making it available on a larger scale.

Isabelle Kocher, Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer of ENGIE and Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange sign a partnership covering two projects – the expansion of the rural electricity grid and ENGIE’s optimisation of energy supplied to Orange’s telecoms infrastructure in Africa.
Isabelle Kocher, Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer of ENGIE and Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange sign a partnership covering two projects – the expansion of the rural electricity grid and ENGIE’s optimisation of energy supplied to Orange’s telecoms infrastructure in Africa.

Already, ENGIE supports Orange with its ongoing project to optimise the power supply of its technical infrastructure in Africa. ENGIE will offer its expertise to improve the telco’s energy efficiency.

Orange’s objectives are to pursue its stable and secure power supply program, reduce its energy footprint, and contain costs despite rapidly growing energy requirements. In the absence of reliable electricity, telecommunications companies in Africa rely on generators to power their base stations. In Nigeria alone, telcos power their Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) with over 50, 000 generating sets fueled with N214.3 billion annually.

Earlier in the year, Nigeria’s largest mobile telecommunications operator MTN said it spends N8 billion on diesel to power generators annually.