Sub-Saharan African nations need to integrate their power-distribution systems to help meet the region’s increasing energy needs, said Black & Veatch Corp. Chief Financial Officer Karen Daniel.
“The integration of the delivery of power is a big deal,” Daniel said in an interview in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the U.S. developer of energy and water infrastructure announced this week it opened a local unit. “People are going to really figure it out in a way that it will be more regional as opposed to country specific.”
Black & Veatch, based in Overland Park, Kansas, is seeking to expand its business in sub-Saharan Africa, where countries are “way behind” on developing power systems, Daniel said.
While power-generation capacity in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to quadruple to 385 gigawatts by 2040, about 530 million people will probably remain without electricity, the International Energy Agency said in a report in October. Regional power generation and interconnection projects offer the prospect of increased access to electricity, as well as cheaper power, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said in a report this year.
In South Africa, Black & Veatch is working on power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd.’s 4,800 megawatt Kusile coal-fired project currently under construction, and it’s also advising the state-owned company on managing outages at its existing assets.
Other opportunities in the region include projects stemming from natural gas discoveries in Mozambique, Daniel said. It has gas reserves with the potential to vault the country into the top three producers of liquefied natural gas in the next decade, according to Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
“The gas that is going to come out of Mozambique will have a huge impact in sub-Saharan Africa,” she said. “That’s going to generate a lot of spending here in the southern part of Africa.”
Daniel is also a member of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, which in April presented recommendations to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
Pritzker’s office has indicated it would focus on the council’s proposals to attract more investors to projects in Africa and the creation of an African infrastructure business center, Daniel said.
The proposed center would gather data about planned and existing infrastructure projects in Africa and provide a forum for investors to connect with governments and prospective local and international partners, she said.
“That might not sound like a lot, but when you’re a whole continent away trying to figure out how to do business, getting those agencies connected will be a really important piece of integrating the whole infrastructure process,” Daniel said.