With a high potential for renewable energy production, an economy in expansion and areas disconnected from the electricity grid, Africa has some of the best opportunities to experiment with smart grid technologies. The EU research and innovation project ENERGICA investigates these opportunities through three pilots, in Kenya, Madagascar and Sierra Leone.
In this project, Trialog participates in the definition of use-cases, which will be studied in this article. Moreover, Trialog will be involved in aspects related to architecture, cyber-security and privacy, in addition to providing an interoperability module for electric mobility in the Kenyan pilot.
A variety of contexts
The ENERGICA project aims to develop solutions tailored to their environment. To do so, each pilot takes place in a specific setting, each with its own obstacles to overcome:
- The Kenyan pilot takes place in Nairobi, a vibrant and bustling metropolis with a thriving tech industry that can rely on the country’s clean energy. Around of 85% of Kenyan electricity comes from renewables, and its production exceeds its consumption by about 800 MW. However, the region still faces challenges with energy access, traffic congestion and air pollution as a result of an inefficient transport system.
- The Sierra Leonean demonstrator is located in peri-urban Freetown, close to farming areas. Food security in the region is intimately tied to access to fertiliser and replenishment of soil organic content to maintain fertility.
- The Malagasy demonstrator is developed in the Diana region, a rural area in the north of the country. Madagascar has one of the lowest electrification rates in southern Africa: 17%, falling to less than 5% in rural areas.
The implementation of smart grids is also strongly tied to other sectors – such as the provision of water, electricity and food, known as the Water, Electricity and Food (WEF) nexus – in addition to transport and industrial activities.
In the Sierra Leonean pilot, the WEF nexus is studied in ENERGICA through the implementation of a bio-digester coupled with water purification systems. The digester enables the transformation of organic waste, such as food, crop or livestock waste, and produces biogas that can be used as a fuel for electricity, heat or transport, as well as fertiliser. The electricity produced by the digester is then partially used by the water purification system to produce clean water. As the water purification system runs on solar, the use of electricity enables it to run without interruption. The surplus water from the organic waste can also be cleaned through the water purification system.
The relationship between smart grids and transport will be explored through the development of a network of battery-swapping stations for electric motorcycles in Nairobi. This system is designed to decarbonise the ‘boda-boda’ taxi bikes. Stations will, moreover, be equipped with equipped with a photovoltaic power source, as well as smart meters, enabling grid limitations to be taken into account.
Finally, commercial uses of electricity are considered in the Malagasy pilot, which will create solar nano-grids in rural villages of Madagascar. The nano-grids will provide electricity for a range of uses, including commercial systems, such as rice hullers, refrigeration systems and water pumping. This should enable the decarbonisation of these uses, as well as providing energy access for domestic users.
Consideration of the cross-sector ties is, therefore, crucial in order to understand the implementation of smart grids in African contexts, as they can have an impact on essential aspects of the user’s daily life, such as provision of drinking water, mobility or access to employment.
Relation to activities in the European contexts
Even though African use-cases are quite different from European contexts, with a presence in Europe of a fully developed grid, the activities and objectives observed in ENERGICA echo aspects of previous European projects and activities. In particular, the IEC 62913-2 use-cases present similar aspects of EV charging and local uses of electricity in microgrids. Several European projects further illustrate implementations of aspects that were identified in ENERGICA’s African context:
- TEN-T with its swapping station for EV charging
- MAESHA with its energy access use-case
- INCOVER’s biomethane, biofertilizer and irrigation water plant
- The self-consumption use-case in ACCEPT
This shows that, even though the contexts largely differ, the systems and results of European projects may, to some extent, be adapted and re-used in African projects, and vice-versa.