Interview with Dr. Catherina Cader from Reiner Lemoine Institut. She talks about the application of spatial data for the EnerSHelF project.
In a previous interview, you and your colleague Philipp Blechinger introduced the objective of work package 3.4 within the EnerSHelF project. What has been achieved since then?
Since the last time we spoke, we deep dived into the data collection, assessment, and analysis to get an understanding of what kind of geo-spatial data is available. We put a strong focus on collecting and compiling all the data which have location specific attributes – meaning geo-coordinates. One part of this process is the visualization. We display the data in maps with different foci – for instance by extracting attributes for the regions of Ghana – and overlay different datasets to generate new insights. Fortunately, we were quite successful in identifying several datasets that work towards our project goal. For some, we were able use them as they were while others needed some post-processing to make them more useful for our purposes. For now, that was one of the key objectives before working towards the goal of developing an electrification strategy.
Sub-Saharan Africa is a region of vast opportunity and potential. With African energy demand predicted to grow twice as fast as the global average over the next two decades, Africa faces unique challenges in meeting this demand (International Energy Agency (IEA), 2019).
The growing weight of Africa’s energy needs are often felt when electricity consumption surpasses supply, leading to blackouts hampering production. These outages, also called “dumsor” in Ghana have become a familiar occurrence for many Africans, as they grapple without access to power for several hours daily.
In Search of High-Powered Solutions
In Ghana, these occurrences pose a severe burden to the healthcare sector, as for example, the cold chain for required vaccines and blood supply may be cut, the light in the operating room may go out or life-saving medical equipment may fail. With the continent having the richest solar resources on the planet, photovoltaic (PV) power, which harnesses energy from sunlight, could be the driver of future energy growth.
However, the PV market in Ghana requires further expansion and innovation, if it is to keep pace with the country’s accelerating demand for energy. According to the World Bank, only 3% of the population can currently access PV power through off-grid systems in West Africa and the Sahel (World Bank, 2017). Innovative solutions are needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy and health access.