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Africa: With increased power must come increased storage capacity

By Kieran Whyte, Partner, Head of the Energy. Mining & Infrastructure Industry Group, Baker McKenzie Johannesburg

The increased generation of renewable power requires increased energy storage capacity. According to Baker McKenzie’s Report – Battery Storage: A Global Enabler of the Energy Transition, lithium-ion batteries take up the majority of new energy storage capacity, both installed and under construction, with older battery technologies being replaced or retained only for smaller projects. However, with costs declining, private investors are entering the market and bringing new business models to commercialize the technologies. Governments of countries with a high share of renewable energy, or looking to facilitate development of the same, have seen the need to support energy storage projects, including in South Africa.

South Africa’s new Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) project is funded by the World Bank and designed to support grid stability and manage peak demand. The first phase of the project  is expected to come online in 2023, with the second project due to be launched at the end of 2024. The project comprises large-scale utility batteries with 1440MWh daily capacity and 60MW of solar PV. Battery storage projects currently underway in South Africa include the Drakensberg Pumped Energy Storage Scheme (27.6 GWh),  the Ingula Pumped Energy Storage Scheme (21 GWh),  the Bokpoort CSP Project (1.3 GWh) and KaXu Solar One (1,650 MWh), and in Morocco, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Power Complex (3 GWh).

In West Africa, the World Bank provided USD 465 million for the Regional Electricity Access and Battery-Energy  Storage Technologies (BEST) Project in 2021, which aims to provide access to electricity for more than one million people in the Sahel, as well as to strengthen the West African Power Pool’s (WAPP) battery-energy storage technologies infrastructure. Further, in December 2022, the World Bank, approved the Regional Emergency Solar Power Intervention Project (RESPITE), which aims to increase renewable energy capacity across the West African countries of Chad, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Togo. The project will, among other things, support the financing and installation of around 106MW of solar capacity with battery storage systems in the region.

As more of Africa’s power is generated via renewable energy, the need for reliable energy storage is becoming increasingly important for grid resilience and flexibility, which necessitates the mass adoption of energy storage as a balancing asset.