Digitalisation and sustainable energy transitions in Africa: assessing the impact of policy and regulatory environments on the energy sector in Nigeria and South Africa

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Abstract

Background
Digital technologies have unique characteristics for achieving radically disruptive transitions within the energy sector. They provide opportunities for new production and consumption models between micro-producers and consumers of electricity within communities in a way that transforms the traditional energy generation and consumption model. The study critically assessed the digitalisation of energy systems in Africa within the context of existing policy frameworks in the quest to achieve sustainable energy transitions in Africa. It investigated how digital technologies such as blockchain, digital platforms and smart grids were adopted and implemented within the energy sector to achieve new energy production and consumption models that are both environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. This assessment was done within the context of existing policy and regulatory frameworks of the society where the use cases were domiciled.

Methods
The aim of the research was to investigate how sustainable energy transitions are being achieved in Nigeria and South Africa through the digitalisation of energy systems. A qualitative methodological approach was done in three stages—a document analysis that reviewed relevant literature on the energy sector policies in Nigeria and South Africa; the next step involved a comparative case study conducted to assess the characteristics of digital technology deployment in each country’s energy transition. Finally, outcomes of the comparative case studies were then situated within the context of existing policies within the countries covered by the study.

Results
Results from the research indicate that Africa is still in the early stages of adoption and application of digital technologies such as blockchain and smart grids within the energy sector. The results also showed a disconnect between the policy environment and industry efforts at achieving this. The current applications as exemplified in the use cases by the three companies covered in this study indicates that Africa's sustainable energy transition is in a rudimentary or early adoption stage, and they are not currently aided by the policy environments in which such projects are domiciled.

Conclusions
The research provides deep insights into the current state and developments within the energy sector especially in relation to how digital technologies are being adopted and implemented in solving the energy poverty prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4811
JournalEnergy, Sustainability and Society
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2021

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