Managing Director, Africa Aggreko
Aggreko used to be seen as a provider of stopgap or temporary power solutions--now the company is often in it for the long haul, as distributed energy takes off in Africa.
Aggreko has long been a presence in the African market, mainly as a provider of temporary power solutions that help to fill the gap between supply and demand on an increasingly energy-hungry continent. But that role is evolving, as customers seek longer term distributed energy solutions.
The company operates in some 25 countries across Africa, as part of its extensive worldwide presence, and has typically provided thermal power generation, using diesel, gas and other fuels to complement grid power or compensate for its unreliability or complete absence. It is also developing biomass solutions.
Many of these activities on the continent have been carried out in collaboration with national grid providers, filling in gaps in their supply, but that's changing, according to John Lewis.
"We have done a lot of work with the national power utilities in Africa, because they don't traditionally have very well developed infrastructure. In the past 10 years or so it's been a very strong market for us. But that part of our business is flattening out, because, as these economies are developing, they're investing in permanent power solutions," he said.
Aggreko still has a role in this area to meet seasonal demand spikes, emergency requirements, or as a back-up solution. Crucially, national utilities themselves now see distributed energy, rather than extending the grid, as an intrinsic part of strategies to get power to more remote communities faster.
"A lot of the African utilities are grappling with how they cost-effectively extend electrification out to rural areas and this is a good solution for that problem," Lewis contends.
Other African markets are providing stronger growth. In particular, industrial sector opportunities are expanding, ranging from small-scale temporary solutions for, say, a shopping centre, to power for a mine, a cement factory, or oil and gas applications at the other end of the scale.
"In some cases, it is because our solution is cheaper than the national utility. That part of our business is growing rapidly, probably 20%-plus this year," said Lewis.
Mines and oilfields are key markets for the company, given they are often located in remote locations with no prospect of a grid connection. The modular and scalable...