Power generation in general

There are 5 main types of power generation plants currently operational on the continent: Hydroelectric, Thermal (and geothermal), Solar, Wind and Nuclear. While certain countries’ power-generating capacity information is hard to come by, from the known data at our disposal, there are currently 686 plants across the continent with a total of roughly 246 457 (MW) production capacity (all categories), of which only 69% (or 164 GW) are “operational”. South Africa accounts for roughly 40% of this total.

“Energy is like blood in the life of an economy — it is the key to getting businesses to work, whether you’re in the banking sector, the agricultural sector, or mining sector.”

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank

Of the known facilities that are still functional, 37% are hydroelectric plants while 40% are thermal. While that may seem like a fairly even split, the bulk of power output (67%) still comes from good old-fashioned combustion – burning things. (Much to the chagrin of our continental neighbours to the north because of the substantial carbon footprint that this generates. But more on that subject in an article to come…).

Impeding progress – Big time…

The energy industry in Africa is an interesting one. Much of the continent still remains in the dark due, largely, to lack of basic infrastructure. Power and energy companies and/or parastatals (depending on location) have their collective work cut out: There are roughly 30.37 million sqaure kilometres to cover (a lot of which is home to rural communities far outside the capitals or urban cities). As a result two-thirds of the households (roughly 600 million people) have no access to electricity at all.

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