Questions about the future of the electricity trade focus on the rise of renewable energy, which is seen as a means of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. Many governments wish to integrate renewable power into their transmission and distribution systems and offer tax or other incentives for its generation.
“My take is that the future will be increasingly distributive,” said Fereidoon Sioshansi of energy consultants Menlo. “Instead of producing a lot of power at centralised plants and shipping it long distances you can generate most of the power you need, perhaps through solar panels on your rooftop.”
On the other hand, the idea of a global grid enabling long-distance electricity trade has been gaining currency. The global grid would also absorb renewable energy, integrating it into transmission and distribution systems. But it requires high levels of investment and the modernisation of infrastructure, and this can be problematic, not least in the developing world.
“The main challenges of the electricity trade in Africa include financing, lack of capacity and planning and maintenance issues,” said Callixte Kambada of the African Development Bank, who made a contribution on the African regional experience.
Despite that African electricity was becoming increasingly interconnected to parts of southern Europe and the Middle East. “I think it’s only a matter of time before we have a global grid,” he said.