Democratisation of energy is necessary to enable Africans to move into the digital age.
Without technological constraints, more people from across Africa are free to innovate and create on the global stage; democratisation of energy is necessary to enable Africans to move into the digital age.
The term ‘Democratisation of Technology’ has become synonymous with the digital age. In a nutshell, it means that access to advanced technology is no longer the domain of a privileged few, but that more and more people are benefitting from access to smart technologies which is rapidly levelling the playing field of global innovation.
One of the deciding factors in who has access to this technology, is the distribution of energy. In order to ensure the equality of technology we first need to solve the problem of unreliable energy.
The concept that energy must come from one central source is inefficient and outdated. By decentralising energy and allowing people to generate and use energy as needed, you’re allowing people to take charge of their own prosperity. In a continent like Africa, with the incredible opportunity for solar and wind generated energy, keeping energy centralised severely hampers the potential for economic growth.
Microgrids are an effective way to quickly and effectively diversify a centralised energy grid. By employing microgrids you not only take the strain off the central grid and lower your carbon footprint, you also create economic opportunities where people can sell off excess energy produced.
The Brooklyn Microgrid project is an excellent example of how clean energy can be turned into thriving micro-economies. In this case, LO3 Energy, a company based in New York US, working alongside Siemens have installed a solar-powered microgrid. In addition to generating clean energy for its own use, the company also installed a blockchain enabled transactive energy platform. This means any unused energy can be sold, generating a new revenue stream.
The same system could be put in place in certain parts of Africa. A shop or building even in remote parts of the country, for example, could install a microgrid and sell off excess energy to surrounding businesses. You could take it one step further and create a transparent energy retail environment where a resident in another part of the country, could choose to top-up their electricity directly from a microgrid supplier based elsewhere.
By diversifying energy through microgrid technology, we can very quickly create new income streams in disadvantaged areas while at the same time growing and stabilising access to energy. This, in turn, will kickstart real democratisation of energy.
Our Siemens office in Midrand is equipped with a microgrid and now uses 50% less power off the central grid. The office has gone more than a year with uninterrupted power and has saved about 2 460 tons of CO2 since the system was opened (174 000 kWh per month).