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Renewable energy: Current projects

  • Innovation and Scale: Enhanced energy access and local market development in sub-Saharan Africa

    Period: 1st September 2018 to 29th February 2020
    Funder: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), United Kingdom
    Project team: Dr Bothwell Batidzirai, Dr Amos Madhlopa, Alfred Moyo and Peter Twesigye
    Collaboration: University of Oxford
    Outputs: Research papers and reports

    Can clean energy be provided for 600m people in sub-saharan Africa who lack reliable energy access?

    The United Nations (UN) has identified universal access to energy as a key enabler for its Agenda 2030 to create inclusive and sustainable societies. Achieving energy access for all is a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in itself, and directly facilitates the SDGs of sustainable industrialisation, sustainable cities and communities, and reducing inequality. This research investigates innovative solutions for promoting energy access in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The study will focus on Uganda and Zambia. Achieving energy access for all is a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in itself, and directly facilitates the SDGs of sustainable industrialisation, sustainable cities and communities, and reducing inequality. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the most energy-deprived region in the world, arguably constitutes the greatest obstacle for realising these goals. An estimated 700 million people in SSA - the majority of them in rural areas -lack electricity access, a number that is only expected to rise as the continent's rural population growth outpaces capacity growth. The three SDG dimensions of achieving energy access - affordability, reliability and sustainability - each stand in stark contrast to the status quo: while the cost of electricity in SSA can be orders of magnitude higher than in industrialised countries, blackouts are frequent, and less than a quarter of energy supply comes from renewable sources. Energy poverty has impaired SSA's economic development since its independence in the 1960s, indicating that new approaches are urgently required. Given the extent of rural energy poverty, limited rural purchasing power and logistical difficulties, innovative, locally driven business models for the renewable energy sector are required to achieve comprehensive rural electrification in SSA. In particular, rapidly falling system costs have made renewable off-grid solutions the cheapest and cleanest option in many remote areas. However, three main issues have prevented sustainable electrification: difficulties in attracting international investment to small-scale renewables; inconsistent and often opaque regulatory and institutional frameworks; and a failure to include local communities, i.e. customers, in planning. Research to date is scarce in all three of these areas in SSA.

    How can clean energy be provided for those 600 million people in sub-saharan Africa that currently lack reliable energy access? Project RISE: Renewable, Innovative and Scalable Electrification in Uganda and Zambia aims at finding answers to this complex challenge. Key stakeholders and members of the project team share their views in the project trailer and emphasize that a holistic approach comprising the views of policymakers, businesses and local communities, the inclusion and empowerment of women, innovative financing models and supply chain management are important factors in achieving the sustainable development goal number 7: clean and affordable access to energy. RISE is a joint research project by the Universities of Oxford and Cape Town with a strong focus on external stakeholder engagement.

    More information is available on the project website


  • REMAP 2030 Country Report for South Africa

    Client: International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

    Period: 2016-2018

    Project leader: Alison Hughes

    Project team: Amos Madhlopa, Alison Hughes and Bruno Merven

    This project assesses the potential for renewable energy development in South Africa up to 2030. The study examines: a) Recent trends in the South African energy system, b) Current policy, legislative and regulative framework, c) Renewable Energy Road map (REMAP) options for South Africa, and d) Barriers and opportunities for a renewable energy transition. Based on findings, some recommendations will be made for accelerated renewable energy uptake in the country.

    Collaboration: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

    Outputs: Research reports

  • Development of an advanced low-cost hybrid electric power generator

    Client: ERAfrica/Department of Science & Technology (South Africa)

    Period: July 2014 – June 2017

    Project leader: Peter Breuhaus (Norway)

    Local project team, with other members from Belgium, Egypt, Norway, and Turkey.:

    ERC: Gisela Prasad, Amos Madhlopa

    Department of Electrical Engineering (UCT): Azeem Khan, Paul Barendse, Moin Hanif.

    The project will use the Brayton power cycle gas turbine to convert the thermal energy produced from various thermal and mainly sustainable energy sources to mechanical energy. The resulting mechanical energy will drive the specially designed electric power generator. This project can be considered as a base for a family of different / larger size advanced high efficiency gas turbine (AHET) generators that can be made and become commercially available for the distributed generation market. A dual vane compressor which will boost the performance of the turbine if operated at high temperature will be designed. The expected specific fuel consumption of AHET will be lower than the specific fuel consumption for the combined cycle by allowing the addition of different sources of renewable energy. In this system, solar thermal energy will be utilized to heat the air delivered by the compressor in a specially designed heat exchanger before entering the combustion chamber. The combustion chamber will be provided with a dual fuel burner, to burn both liquid and gas fuels. Several different sources of thermal energy would be utilized to operate AHET including biogas (BG), natural gas (NG), bio-diesel (BD) in addition to solar thermal energy. Due to the high efficiency of the AHET, the emission is significantly reduced even if fuelled with NG. However, substantial reduction will be achieved through the use of BG or BD in conjunction with solar energy. To maximize the system efficiency, the exhaust gas leaving the heat exchanger (in the case of large size systems) can be utilized to preheat the inlet air or for industrial thermal applications such water desalination. Further reduction action of fuel consumption and improvement of thermal efficiency would also be achieved by utilizing a small portion of the electric energy generated to produce hydrogen by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen by the electrolysis process. Part of the produced hydrogen will be mixed with fuel in the combustion chamber to boost the combustion process while the remaining hydrogen gas can be stored for later use.

    Collaboration: International Research Institute Stavanger (Norway), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), Fatih University (Turkey), Ain Shames University (Egypt) and University of Cape Town (South Africa).

    Objectives: 1) To develop a mathematical tool for optimization of an advanced low-cost hybrid electric power generator, 2) To construct and test an Advanced High Efficiency gas Turbine (HSG-AHET) prototype in the field, 3) To establish a desalination plant operated on heat recovered from the electric power plant, and 4) To provide clean electric power to operate advanced agriculture projects for high-yield food production including hydroponic farming and intensive fish farming.

    Methodology: 1) Generation of a layout concept, taking into account the physical and the engineering constraints. 2) Development of a mathematical model for system optimization in terms of steady state operation as well as in terms of modelling transients especially with respect to the inclusion of various sources of thermal energy and fuel, 3) Designing and manufacturing of the various system components, and 5) integration of the components and testing of the prototype.

    Outputs: 3 research reports, and 1 prototype

  • The water-energy nexus in the context of climate change

    Client: Water Research Commission

    Period: August 2013 – November 2015

    Project leader: Amos Madhlopa

    Project team: Mascha Moorlach, Debbie Sparks, Samantha Keen and Amos Madhlopa; with Guy Pegram and Siyasanga Sauks from Pegasys

    South Africa is an arid country, where water supply is often from a distant source. There is also increasing pressure on the limited water resources due to economic and population growth, with a concomitant increase in the energy requirement for water production. This problem will be exacerbated by the onset of climate change. Nevertheless, water providers in South Africa are not compelled to assess energy consumption and the carbon footprint of water production and distribution in spite of the growing concerns about the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the intense use of fossil fuels for energy supply.

    Energy requirements in the water sector need to be properly examined to establish the overall carbon footprint of the water supply chain inSouth Africa . Several alternatives to the energy-intensive water supply chain do exist, including the use of renewable energy sources and local waste-water re-use. However, the impact of deploying renewable energy technologies on water resources need to be considered properly. Some issues require scrutiny in order to understand the water footprint of renewable energy production in South Africa . For example, to allocate water for biofuel production will require a shift in the current water allocation policy.  Due to the large gap that exists between water supply and demand, trade-offs in water allocation amongst different users and policy makers are critical.

    Collaboration: Pegasys

    Objectives: The main objective of this project is to investigate trade-offs between water use efficiency and renewable energy in South Africa .

    Methodology: Data collections through desktop, structured questionnaires, expert interviews and workshops.

    Outputs: 10 research reports and 2 workshops