Investment in low-cost renewable battery growth could revolutionize Africa’s energy supply

In Africa today, more than 600 million people live without electricity.

In fact, fewer than one in five Africans were connected to the power grid in 2012, and despite a modest increase from 32 % to 35% between 2010 and 2012, the rate of electrification continues to be too slow to keep pace with the rapid population growth on the continent.

Unsurprisingly,  the world bank in a recent report, carried out by RISE (Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy) noted that SubSaharan Africa is the world’s least electrified continent,  while many as 40 percent of Sub-Saharan African countries surveyed have barely taken any of the policy measures needed to accelerate energy access.

In an economic climate, characterized by sputtering economic growth, this could be a big problem.

While the numbers might spell despair for Africans, the solution could be ‘lithium’ that can store renewable energy, for longer and at half the current cost and could also sprung energy revolution that will transform Africa’s power supply.

This week, South Africa will see African energy leaders gathering in Johannesburg to discuss ways to provide affordable and clean energy across the continent. Among the challenges that are hindering the development of making electricity accessible in Africa.

Over the years, there have been calls for African countries, to adopt the use of solar, wind for renewable energy. The potential of lithium batteries to be the major energy storage in off-grid renewable energy, could yet prove more helpful in solving, Africa energy crises especially to the rural areas.

While Zimbabwe  boost of the continent’s largest deposit of Lithuim,  South Africa, Mali, Congo, Nambia have all contributed to the world Lithuim Market.

According to the Chamber of Mines Zimbabwe, the country currently holds the world’s largest known deposit of lithium at Bikita Minerals, estimated at over 11 million tonnes, yet Zimbabwe is facing huge power deficits.

 Lithium-Ion Batteries for Africa electrification

Lithium-ion batteries are common in home electronics. They are one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries for portable electronics, with a high energy density, tiny memory effect and low self-discharge. Beyond consumer electronics, LIBs are also growing in popularity for military, battery electric vehicle and aerospace applications.

While, Africa continent is home to 13% of the world’s population, it accounts for only 4% of global energy demand.  Lithuim-ion battery could allow millions to leapfrog from no electricity at all straight to renewable.

With the Lithuim Energy currently able to supply and store energy, this form of energy if properly harness,  could finally break Africa’s dependance on fueling generators.

With the possibility of being entirely off-grid, the home battery from Lithuim energy, could help finalise, the disconnection of African everyday life from the happenings in the political sphere, were traditionally, the relationship between a government and its people is one of bartering- political support for the provision of services-such as roads, schools, electricity, water and security.

For MSA Group geology operations manager Michael Cronwright, a leading provider of exploration, geology, mineral resource and reserve estimation, mining and environmental consulting services  Africa, potentially, can generate enough to meet demands for residential and power grid storage systems.

“In Africa, lithium is sourced from the rare element class of pegmatites belonging to the lithium/caesium/tantalum (LCT) family. The pegmatities contain the lithium-bearing minerals of spodumene, petalite, lepidolite, amblygonite and eucryptite. Typically, the pegmatites also host other minerals that are economically significant such as tantalite (or coltan), pollucite (or caesium), tin, mica, beryl and feldspar.”

MSA explains that, in Africa, LCT pegmatites are found in mobile belts in Mali, the Kibaran belt in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique and Egypt.

Demand for lithium is largely owing to demand from the battery storage market, owing to the use of mobile devices, electric vehicles (EVs), electrification projects around public transport in China and the rest of the world, and the increased demand for residential and power grid storage systems, notes MSA.

“The company notes that the battery market accounts for about 36% of lithium demand and is expected to grow to 73% by 2025.”

While, Lithium-ion batteries, can help us end fossil fuel dependence and store energy however, it remains expensive for large grid storage.

“Lithium ion was not fundamentally designed for grid scale storage,” said Andrew Chung, a partner at Khosla Ventures, it will play a major role over the next two years because it is the only rechargeable battery appropriate for grid-scale and commercial-scale deployment, but after that new chemistries will have to be developed.

Africa Energy Indaba’s managing director, Liz Hart, describe the African continent as a continent with abundant necessary mineral resources, climate and geology to meet its energy requirements.

However, in many of its countries, there is a lack of funding, institutional will or technical skill to assist in developing the energy sector.

“The Indaba attempts to address this lack by connecting people and rainmakers who can boost sector development on a regional scale.

Hart noted that without access to energy, Africa’s growth will be stifled and, as such, investing in energy solutions for the continent is “mandatory and absolutely necessary.”