By Ajong Mbapndah L
When it comes to wind energy in Africa, Siemens Gamesa is not only a pioneer in the continent but has remained the undisputed leader. With an installed capacity of almost 4 GW, in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Tunisia and Algeria, Siemens Gamesa has more than 52% market share on the continent when it comes to wind energy.
“The ultimate solution to Africa energy development is not necessarily from a single energy source,” says Marcel Cabral, Head of Sales for Africa at Siemens Gamesa. Speaking in an interview with Pan African Visions, Cabral says Africa boasts a broad range of renewable energy resources, from wind and solar to geothermal and hydropower and its future prosperity requires a change from the current total reliance on conventional energy sources.
“We think that Africa could truly benefit from the post covid recovery with cleaner energy sources with wind energy playing a prominent role, and Siemens Gamesa is determined to lead this energy revolution,” says Marcel Cabral.
Thanks for accepting to grant this interview could you start with an introduction of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy?
Siemens Gamesa has been a pioneer of the wind industry for more than 40 years. It employs today more than 25,000 colleagues, who work at the center of the global energy revolution to tackle the most significant challenge of our generation: the climate crisis. It has today a leading position in onshore and offshore wind market as well as in service for wind turbines. Our aim is to build and deliver powerful and reliable wind energy solutions in strong partnership with our customers. It means that we run a global business with local impact. So far, we have installed close to 115 GW worldwide.
How long has Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy been in Africa and in what parts of Africa do you do business?
In fact, 33 years ago, we were the first manufacturer to provide wind energy on the continent. The very first turbine was installed in 1989 in Somalia. Today, with an installed capacity of almost 4 GW, in countries such as Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Mauritania, Mauritius, Tunisia and Algeria, we have more than 52% market share on the continent. In 2017, we established the first blade factory in the entire MEA (Middle East and Africa) region in Morocco, Tangier, employing 600 employees today, of which more than 95% are local work force.
Specifically, and most recently, our large presence in the continent can be outlined as follows:
Egypt represents the largest and most rapidly evolving market for us today in terms of opportunities in Africa, with an installed capacity of 1,435 MW. Just this month, we completed the completion of our 250 MW West Bakr wind farm in partnership with Lekela Power. It represents the second private wind farm in the country.
- In South Africa, ahead of schedule and just before the lockdown caused by Covid-19, we were able to complete two projects totaling 250 MW thanks to a major team effort.
- In Morocco, we commissioned the 180 MW Midelt wind farm, part of the integrated 850MW program.
- In Mauritania, our team completed the installation of 39 turbines for our 102 MW Boulenouar project.
- Finally, we are very proud of both our recent market breakthrough: the 59 MW first wind project ever in Djibouti and the 100 MW Assela wind project in Ethiopia.
Looking at the development trends and dynamics in Africa, how important are the services and products of Siemens Gamesa?
Africa is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, representing 50% of the African energy mix, oil & gas as well as coal. Not only has bioenergy’s share in the overall energy mix barely changed over the last 25 years, but it continues to dominate the primary energy mix, accounting for 60% of total energy use in the region and constituting a huge challenge to the continent. As a result, the adoption of renewable energy proffers a huge opportunity for most African countries seeking energy independence, reduction of exposure to unreliable energy imports and attainment of a state of energy security.
That said, the ultimate solution to Africa energy development is not necessarily from a single energy source, but rather a combination of several sources. Africa boasts a broad range of renewable energy resources, from wind and solar to geothermal and hydropower and its future prosperity requires a change from the current total reliance on conventional energy sources.
For that matter, a successful renewable energy transition needs a decent network development, appropriate policies to support a strong expansion of clean energy and emphasis on energy efficiency improvements. Countries like Morocco, Egypt and South Africa have demonstrated that this is possible through the launch of several programs combined with attractive incentives for the private sector and renewable energy targets aiming to become less dependent if not at all on imports of resources.
We think that Africa could truly benefit from the post covid recovery with cleaner energy sources, and specifically wind energy, playing a prominent role. And we are determined to lead this energy revolution.
May we know the wind power potential of the continent and what advantages if any it may have over more touted forms of energy like Solar?
According to a study released in 2020 by International Finance Corporation, Africa’s total potential equals about 180,000 TWh/year which can largely cover the entire continent’s electricity demand. The wind resource is surprisingly distributed as per the following:
27 countries on their own could satisfy the entire continental electricity demand (17 of these have average capacity factors over 30%)
Many countries with no projects yet benefit from great potential:
Algeria: 24,980 TWh (34% in high wind)
- Tanzania: 1,564 TWh potential (12% in high wind)
- Malawi: 322 TWh potential (7% in high wind)
- Namibia: 4,399 TWh (3% in high wind)
- Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, Ivory Coast …
It is true that wind brings more benefits in comparison with Solar; wind produces at night and is less prominent on land However, I believe that both technologies are complementary rather than opponents.
Can you cite us examples of countries in Africa that are tapping into the rich potential of wind energy?
Currently some of the markets with the strongest potential resources in wind power are Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti. Without any doubt, we are well aware of the important role wind energy can play in powering Africa’s growth, including job creation and industrial expansion, which is why, as a market leader, we are keen on marking our footprint further with the aim to help the continent accelerate its clean energy transition and stimulate economic growth in a sustainable manner.
In terms of cost, how affordable is it to harness wind energy and what kind of partnerships, and opportunities are readily available with Siemens Gamesa for countries that are interested?
Currently, wind together with solar, are the most affordable energy sources, compared to gas, coal and nuclear. However, it requires a good planning of the electrical grid. A 2020 Nuclear Energy Agency and International Energy Agency study reports that levelized costs of renewable and nuclear energy generation are falling below that of fossil fuels.
In most of the represented countries, the levelized cost of energy for renewables is expected to be lower than that of coal- or gas-powered plants. For example, in the United States, onshore wind and solar power are expected to be, at an assumed emissions cost of $30 per ton of CO2, the least expensive to operate, followed by natural gas, offshore wind, nuclear and coal. In China and India, utility-scale solar power is reported as the least-cost option, followed by onshore wind and solar.
Nevertheless, these “cheap” affordable sources are of course dependent on the CO2 emissions policy. In addition, they can be used only if conveniently integrated in the electrical grid thanks to long term planning, investment and most important point, a clear political will to change the energy landscape.
So, the progress of a country towards a significant renewable energy share is a broader process than just looking at a specific wind farm or a solar plant.
In this context, Siemens Gamesa’s role is only one of the soldiers of the clean energy army that should be raised by a country to address the renewable energy revolution.
We are strongly committed to tackle the world’s biggest challenge and work relentlessly on bringing key players onboard, like international agencies, resource assessment specialist and grid planning specialists.
What role do you think Green Energy could play as Africa struggles to recover from the damage caused by COVID -19?
The energy sector is severely challenged by this crisis, which has slowed transport, trade and economic activity. With border closures and health emergency states, it has surely impacted our operations worldwide, and so therefore also in Africa.
While Siemens Gamesa has been focused towards business continuity supportive to our customer and stakeholder needs, it also has been involved in its commitment to improve lives through renewable energies as part of the immediate response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For this purpose, we have joined several calls to actions to urge governments to put the renewable energy sector at the heart of any recovery plans displayed as followed:
IRENA’s Coalition for Action Calls for Green Recovery Based on Renewables, where we are putting forward recommendations on how governments can ensure a rapid and sustained economic recovery that aligns with climate and sustainability objectives.
- The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) “Green Recovery Industry” statement with an aim to lay out the key policy actions that must be put into motion to renew energy infrastructures.
- The “Uniting Business and Governments to Recover Better” initiative, as signatories of the Science based targets initiative (signatories since Sep 2018) and UN Global Compact (Feb 2005)
- The Green Recovery Alliance, where signatories are committed to support post-pandemic “stimulus transformation plans” that put the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss at the center of Europe’s economic policy.
- The RenewAfrica initiative where we remain committed to accelerate Africa’s sustainable energy transition, which is aligned with the EU-Africa Strategy on Africa presented by the European Commission and the European External Action Service on 9 March 2020.
We strongly believe that by making the energy transition an integral part of the wider recovery, we can achieve a more resilient and inclusive future for Africa.
In terms of the manpower needed for projects, what is Siemens Gamesa doing to create an African skill set to participate or handle some of the projects?
We are as local as possible when executing a project and when maintaining our wind turbines.
For example, in all the wind farms installed in Africa, when maintenance contracts are long term (>5 years), our Service team is 100% local.
Siemens Gamesa South Africa has a dedicated team focused on assisting and consulting entrepreneurs to establish businesses who can serve the company and other OEMs wind projects locally and sustainably. This approach of inclusion is generating a positive relationship between communities to and with the wind farms and most importantly jobs. The same effort as part of the overall business strategy is targeting to build up a South African supplier base for components and services required for the installation and maintenance of the wind farms. Just to name some examples, components such as towers, cables, structural components for towers and foundations, fluids such as oil and other lubricants, transportation and work force have been localized nearly to 100%.
Nevertheless, we should not hide the reality: very few African countries are offering the needed volume to develop a local knowledge. With less than 10 project per year for 54 countries, you cannot expect to create a wind economic sector. That is why we urge the government to strongly push for the renewable energy development
There are other companies in the continent doing the same thing as Siemens Gamesa, or that may be coming in because of the potential, can you make the pitch as to why Africans should privilege business and partnership with Siemens Gamesa?
We are offering solution as good as any of our competitors, so the difference lies on the fact that we have been the first in the wind sector to bet strongly on Africa.
We are installed in 11 countries essentially with local resources and we have by far the biggest experience in complex countries like the African ones offering tailored products. That’s why we are the natural choice for Africa