Interview: “In Africa, the need is great for small scale off-grid development for rural communities”

This is an exclusive interview with Andy Eaton, head of sales Africa, Latin America & Oceania for Gilkes Hydro. At the upcoming African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africain Cape Town, South Africa, in November he is part of the Energy Revolution Africa discussion in the Knowledge Hub on “Advances in hydro powered mini-grids.”

Let’s start with some background on your organization and the type of projects you are involved in.
Gilkes Hydro manufactures Pelton, Francis and Turgo turbines from 50 kW to 30 MW. We offer customized, engineered solutions for hydroelectric developments, including design, manufacture, installation, commissioning, testing, service, and complete plant modernization and upgrade. The company was incorporated in 1856, and Gilkes has more than 160 years’ experience offering water-to-wire solutions for the hydropower market, with more than 6,800 turbines installed globally.

Any specific success stories you would like to highlight?
Gilkes have been supplying hydroelectric turbines to Africa for over 100 years and we are fully committed to working in Africa. Our team of engineers and project managers are passionate about supporting this market and providing rural electrification through mini-grid systems. Two specific success stories that we are particularly proud of would be:

  • Our work with a developer in Zimbabwe and Malawi where we are working on our ninth hydro project with them. The largest of these nine projects was Pungwe B in Zimbabwe, where we supplied full mechanical and electrical equipment including four Turgo turbines with a total capacity of 16 MW (one of the largest projects Gilkes has done). 
  • Our relationship with the tea estates in Kenya where we have been serving them for over 100 years, both with the supply of new equipment and providing plant modernization services on ageing schemes. The majority of the projects we do for the tea estates are mini-grid systems, running in island mode but with the ability to be grid-connected.

Are there any countries on the continent doing the right things at the moment in your opinion in terms of their energy policies?
The GET FiT Programmes in Zambia and Uganda are providing guaranteed tariffs for renewable power development, which assists the governments in the implementation of their renewable energy feed-in tariffs, which will help to open up the market for small hydro schemes.

How optimistic are you about renewable energy being adopted on a large scale in Africa?
Very optimistic. The untapped potential in Africa for small hydro is massive and the need is great for small-scale off-grid development for rural communities. Developers and lenders need to continue to work closely together.

Andy Eaton is responsible for International Hydropower Sales in Africa, Latin America and Oceania at Gilkes Hydro. He has a broad understanding of the elements involved with delivering hydro equipment in some of the most challenging locations.

This article was originally published on the African Utility Week website and has been reprinted with permission.

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