While data on Africa’s electricity systems is improving as new or updated national data sources are developed, Ember’s African Electricity Data Transparency report shows current data is limited.
The independent climate and energy think tank put together the transparency report as a reference guide of national sources of electricity data on the continent. The report looks at where national electricity data can be found and evaluates the quality and usability of available data.
As Ember puts it, timely, reliable and publicly available data will be critical to inform and track Africa’s electricity transition. Robust data can support efforts to ensure that project demand growth is met by clean generation as the reliance on fossil fuels is lessened. Thus, the current situation needs to change to foster transparent decision-making accountability by African electricity planners.
The think tank found that while national electricity data is available in many countries in Africa, the quality is generally low, with long lag times and inconsistent public frequency being an unfortunate hallmark.
Of the 54 countries evaluated, 23 (42%) had only very old national data available, or nothing at all. South Africa scored the highest in the Ember evaluation of data availability and quality, but no country scored a 5/5 rating.
Guy Cunliffe, Ember energy and sustainability analyst and report author: “While data availability across Africa is improving, there are many gaps. Improving this will be critical to make sure that decision-makers are armed with the best possible information to guide the clean electricity scale-up in each country.”
Electricity data transparency is possible
The report provides a country-by-country breakdown that showed 23 countries are languishing at the bottom of the pile with a zero ranking.
South Africa scored a 4/5 as it consistently provides monthly or better data with high detail. National electricity utility and system operator Eskom is the main source of electricity generation data, which they make available on their website. The data displays hourly granularity of generation, import and export data going back to the first quarter of 2017; and is broken down by generation source, capacity, demand, outage and load factor. While no financial data is included on the website this can be requested.
The SA Department of Mineral Resources and Energy publishes annual, comprehensive fuel-split energy balance data, though with a very long lag as the most recently available energy balance available to the report writers was 2018. StatsSA publishes monthly generation and distribution data, albeit with no fuel-split and the data needs a high level of expertise to comprehend.
The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) last published electricity supply statistics in 2012.
Despite Nigeria’s electricity sector dominating energy news out of Africa, the West African country scores a 1/5 with little or low-quality data with a long lag time for availability from official sources. While the Nigeria Electricity System Operator does publish daily reports on the Nigerian electricity grid there is no disaggregation of fuels, plants or units or detail on electricity consumption beyond peak demand. The data is published in PDF format but with no aggregation or inclusion of historic data. So, data is difficult to parse over longer analysis periods.
Some countries are struggling to make data available
Five countries scored a 3/5 in the Ember report – Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Uganda and Burundi. A 3/5 score means the think tank found them to provide better-than-annual granular data with some fuel breakdown and other data.
Kenya’s approximately six-month data lag is mitigated somewhat by monthly granularity and this data is mostly freely available. Their Ministry of Energy, state-owned electricity generation utility KPLC and electricity transmission company KETRACO also make various forms of information freely available.
While Ghana also works on about a six-month time lag, it tries to make various forms of information available through the Ghana Energy Commission (GEC) as well as the Electricity Company of Ghana. While presented in PDF format, there is a lot of information freely available on the GEC website.
Namibia’s national electricity utility NamPower provides high-level generation data through its annual reports and the Namibia Statistics Agency publishes monthly Electricity Sectoral Reports, with the latest dated October 2021.
Uganda has an approximate six-month time lag for the provision of data, though a lot of user-friendly data is available through the Uganda Electricity Regulation Authority and the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company.
Burundi has good monthly granularity available on data, which is available in a less than six-month lag time.
Support is needed to up the data transparency quotient
On the other side of the scale are the 23 countries with little to no information available. Problems range from only very old data being available to no breakdown or granularity of data. While some countries have a data problem as they come out of recent active armed conflict, Cȏte d’Ivoire is a surprising addition to the 0/5 list considering this country is where the African Development Bank is headquartered.
As Africa’s electric grid and ICT infrastructure improve, it is likely that data availability and reliability will improve, but as the Ember report points out, the countries would need support to accelerate these developments.