Analysis: Impact of LED rollout on grid networks in Africa



Following the realisation of the benefits of LED bulbs by utility firms and governments, national regulatory authorities have put in place programmes to maximise rollout of the technology.

Some of the programmes include efforts to improve consumer awareness on how LED bulbs can impact on their energy bills. The majority of African states engaged in the mass deployment of LED bulbs are installing the technology at customers residences for free.

A number of governments in Southern Africa have also banned the use of traditional light bulbs.

For instance, the Zimbabwean government has since the 1st of May banned the manufacturing, trade and use of incandescent bulbs.

Since the government’s $12 million investment towards the free installation of LED bulbs for consumers, the Zimbabwe National Regulatory Authority (ZERA) predicts that almost 1 million consumers are still using the traditional incandescent bulb.

This has resulted in ZERA setting up a target to have all consumers connected to the country’s grid network equipped with LED bulbs by the end of 2017.

LED bulbs, energy efficiency, grid stability and carbon emissions

By having all of the country’s energy consumers using LED bulbs, a study conducted by ZERA highlights that the country will save up to 40MW which can be directed towards powering the industrial sector to end the country’s economic woes.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the switch to LED bulbs could help Zimbabwe meet its carbon emission reduction targets of 1,300 gigatonnes over the next 13 years.

Meanwhile, Zambia’s state-owned utility ZESCO has invested $20 million to replace some 5 million traditional bulbs with LED bulbs by the end of June.

The move is expected to improve consumer energy efficiency and save up to 200MW of energy per annum which can be used to stabilise grid network and reduce power shedding affecting Zambia’s mining and agricultural sectors, says the Voice of Africa.

“Increased economic activities and [not enough] rainfall have severely impacted the power deficit,” said Thomas Sinkamba, manager of the LED rollout at ZESCO.

Electricity demand has over the past years increased from 1,600MW per annum to 1,800MW.

An increase in consumer energy efficiency would also help Zambia avoid investing in new energy generation infrastructure while at the same time improve access to electricity to the country’s rural population.

Following the launch of its energy efficiency project in 2007, the Ugandan government has in March partnered with energy provider Umeme to deploy some 311,000 LED bulbs to some 103,000 households with each metering point receiving three LED bulbs, says ESI Africa.

The phase will cover the utility’s service territories in Ntinda, Port Bell, Kisugu, Ggaba, Kireka, Kajjansi and Entebbe Municipality.

At the same time, the Nigerian government in partnership with the EU and the Germany government announced that they will implement an energy efficiency policy by the end of this year.

Energy efficiency standards

The development follows the drafting of energy efficiency standards for home, industrial and commercial appliances by the Nigerian Support Programme (NESP), an agency launched by the EU, Germany government and Nigeria’s ministry of Power Works and Housing to improve investments in energy conservation and renewable energy.

According to the Guardian, Nigeria has to date adopted some 19 energy efficiency standards which are in line with the ISO 50001 energy efficiency standard. [Nigeria seeks 5.2bn from World Bank to rehabilitate stifled power industry]