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Batteries and energy storage- the dynamics for Africa’s commercial sector

Energy storage systems (batteries) have become an important component of sustainable renewable energy systems. The ability of renewable technologies, such as solar, to store energy during periods of low demand and release energy during periods of high demand, allows technology to be successfully integrated into energy infrastructure.

To address this demand, battery technology has progressed to include big and small-scale battery solutions that may provide storage capacity for technologies ranging in size from multi-megawatt production assets to small-scale solar solutions. Batteries are important for completing the energy transition and expanding global access to sustainable energy, particularly for off-grid residents in African communities and business units. The battery market in Africa is expected to rise sevenfold by 2030. It is critical to make sure that the tremendous potential offered by batteries do not come at the expense of Africa’s most disadvantaged people. The large, “utility-scale” batteries can provide a range of services based on the type, and size, of the generation asset.

Batteries and energy storage are used in lower scale solar solutions, such as mini-grids under 1MW, to reduce reliance on diesel generators and to offer backup services in the event that the mini-grid does not receive full solar radiation. These battery applications are the most common in Nigeria’s off-grid environment. Furthermore, a circular battery value chain will be essential for Africa’s battery market to scale up sustainably. Africa is a major source of raw materials for the worldwide battery supply chain. Many mineral deposits essential to battery manufacture can be found in Africa. Katanga, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is home to the world’s greatest cobalt deposits and produces more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt. Cobalt is a metal that is utilized in lithium-ion batteries with high energy density. Africa also mines a variety of additional battery raw materials, in addition to cobalt. Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo is fraught with social difficulties. For a huge number of people in the DCR, artisanal cobalt mining is a vital source of income. It is, however, frequently connected to a lack of adequate health and safety precautions, the exploitation of child labour, and opaque corporate practices. Within the DRC Copperbelt region, a number of initiatives have been formed to address those concerns, including the Global Battery Alliance’s Cobalt Action Partnership and the Fund for the Prevention of Child Labour in Mining Communities – a Global Battery Alliance Collaboration.

Because of their versatility and rising cost competitiveness, batteries and energy storage are particularly appealing in Africa’s stationary storage industries. Despite the fact that pumped hydropower is the most widely used energy storage technology in Sub-Saharan Africa today, batteries are expected to take a significant share of the future market due to declining costs and flexibility – including the range of storage services they provide and their ability to be tailored to consumer needs – batteries are expected to take a significant share of the future market due to declining costs and flexibility. Significant cost reductions – 90% since 2010 – have already aided in the growth of SHS sales, with batteries accounting for almost two-thirds of total system prices. Additional cost reductions, estimated to be 50% by 2030 compared to 2017, could assist reproduce this trend in larger applications. Off-grid solar power systems rely primarily on batteries to store electricity generated during the day for use during the night. Battery storage capacity requirements vary depending on the size of individual installations, ranging from 9 Wh for small PicoPV systems to more than 1 MWh for big mini-grids. Until recently, practically all energy-access programs used lead-acid batteries because they are widely available, reliable, and inexpensive. In recent years, the advancement of Lithium battery technology, combined with lowering prices, has resulted in numerous projects considering the usage of Li-based battery technologies. Different types of batteries include Lead-acid and lithium batteries.

Lead-Acid Battery

 Lead-acid batteries (LABs) are used in a variety of applications, including automotive and stationary power storage. It’s worth noting that starting batteries for automotive applications are designed to give short bursts of power rather than continuous power. As a result, automotive LABs are unsuitable for solar power applications. Battery life-times are sometimes as low as 1 or 2 years when such batteries are used for SHS (despite their limits). Despite this drawback, automobile LABs are frequently utilized in SHS purchased and installed by private users who are not affiliated with energy-access schemes. This is primarily due to widespread availability and lower purchase prices. Deep-cycle LABs are available for solar power applications and are extensively used in related projects. The cost of such batteries is typically roughly 20% more than that of automotive LABs due to the presence of more active material (lead). The typical battery life span is between 2 and 5 years.


Lead and lead oxide makes up about 65 per cent of the weight of lead-acid batteries, with 10–15 per cent sulfuric acid. When consumed or inhaled, lead is a very dangerous heavy metal that has a variety of negative consequences on many human organs. Lead poisoning can harm the brain and kidneys, as well as stunt the development of children’s brains. Poisoning with lead can result in a variety of symptoms, including death. Sulfuric acid is also a source of concern because it can cause skin burns and eye damage when it comes into contact with humans. The improper disposal of sulfuric acid adds to environmental acidification.

The battery’s toxic elements are normally well encased during usage, making emissions to the environment and direct contact with humans are. Furthermore, lead-acid batteries are quite safe to use due to the low risk of overheating and fire. Overcharging of valve-regulated LABs with non-functioning or obstructed valves poses a potential safety hazard. The electrolytic processes in the battery can build up pressure, which can lead to an explosion if the pressure is not released through valves.


Lithium-ion batteries are a great alternative to lead-acid batteries since they are more ecologically friendly and can store up to six times as much energy. Lithium batteries are also safer to use than lead-acid batteries. Lithium-Ion Batteries were created as a result of the discovery of lithium cobalt oxide. Intercalation of lithium ions between layers of graphene occurs when a lithium cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite anode are used together (in most situations). This occurs in the intervals between single hexagonal rings of carbon atoms, which are enclosed sites. When charging a lithium-ion battery, lithium ions pass from the positive electrode, or cathode, to the negative electrode, or graphite anode, via a solid/liquid electrolyte. This process takes place while the battery is depleted. Lithium batteries come in a variety of forms, with the following being the most common in today’s commercial value:

› LNMC (lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide)

› LCO (lithium-cobalt-oxide)

› LNCA (lithium-cobalt-aluminium-oxide)

› LMO (lithium-manganese-oxide)

› LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate)

› LTO (lithium-titanate)

Cobalt-based chemistries (LNMC, LCO, and LNCA) have better energy densities than other Li-batteries, but they are also more expensive. As a result, they’re mostly used in mobile applications like smartphones and electric vehicles, where weight and energy density are important factors. LMO or LFP batteries are commonly used in stationary applications. Despite the fact that LTO batteries have distinct advantages in terms of fire safety, they are not widely produced and deployed due to their low energy densities and high cost. Both chemistries are usually more durable than lead-acid batteries in terms of battery life, with LFP having an advantage over LMO. LMO cells are nearly twice as expensive as LAB cells, while LFP cells are twice as expensive as LMO cells. It is important to note that Li-batteries prices fluctuate rapidly, with annual declines of roughly 20% on average over the last few years. If this trend continues, the cost of LMO batteries could reach the same level as LAB batteries by 2020.

Despite the absence of heavy metals in Li-ion batteries, there are a number of constituent parts that have the potential to harm human health and ecosystems. Despite the fact that the chemical makeup of Li-ion batteries varies substantially between types and sub-types, it is reasonable to presume that all types include compounds that could be dangerous. While the toxicity of LMO and LFP batteries is substantially lower than that of LABs, it must be known that LABs frequently end up in recycling facilities. LMO and LFP batteries, on the other hand, have minimal recycling value and are thus unattractive to both local and worldwide recycling markets.  As a result, they’re more prone to be discarded in an unregulated manner. Aside from its toxicity potential, Li-ion batteries are associated with significant safety issues when used under particular situations. The following is an excerpt from a section on linked risks. Overcharging, high temperatures and physical stress on battery cells can produce thermal runaway, which can result in the battery being destroyed, a fire, or even an explosion. The deep discharge might potentially result in battery fires.

Despite the distinctions between lead-acid and lithium batteries, none are clearly preferable in terms of end-of-life management, as both battery types have characteristics that may cause negative environmental impacts and/or health and safety issues during use, recycling, and disposal. The comparison of battery characteristics relevant for end-of-life management strategies Source is shown in the table below:

Table 1: comparison of battery characteristics relevant for end-of-life management strategies

Automotive LAB Deep-cycle LAB LMO LFP
Purchasing price very low low medium-high high
Expected life-time very low low high High-VERY HIGH
Safety risk in use-phase low low medium/high medium/high
Toxicity potential very high very high medium medium
Recyclability very high very high medium medium
Profitability of recycling high high very low very low

The solar power industry in developing and emerging economies has proven to be extremely adaptable, as it has had to overcome a number of challenges related to the marketing of products and systems with high upfront costs (e.g. SHS) and is in direct competition with other partially subsidized energy options (e.g. kerosene). Typically, two business models are used:

  1. Models in which the appliance is bought. This covers cash transactions or sales that have been “supported” by financing institutions or credit arrangements. This business model is most commonly used for smaller systems like solar lanterns and modest solar house systems, which are often the first steps on the energy ladder.
  2. Models in which the appliance is leased or in which ownership is gradually transferred over time (lease-to-own). Customers receive assistance with upfront capital costs as well as maintenance and after-sales servicing over their repayment periods, which are typically three years or longer. When a payment is a past due, most systems have a feature that allows providers to remotely disable the system. These approaches have been used in institutional microfinance-based programs in Bangladesh and India, as well as in recent years in so-called “pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) models involving plug-and-play technologies provided by private enterprises and mobile money repayments.

In Eastern Africa, where mobile money payments are more commonly used, these newer PAYG models have seen significant growth. Customers have deeper and more solid ties with SHS thanks to leasing or a pay-as-you-go model, at least until ownership of the product is finally transferred to the client. In this context, PAYG models provide a way to better integrate take-back programs and operations, especially for customers who are upgrading to newer products at the conclusion of the payback period.

Furthermore, the corporations get access to damaged products and components, including batteries, that are funnelled to their warehouses throughout maintenance and warranty periods. This provides a fantastic chance to combine battery trash and e-waste pick-up service in more remote places. Aside from pay-as-you-go, the off-grid solar industry has created a wide range of sales and distribution channels, including retail shops and kiosks, local agents, non-governmental organizations, and collaborations with mobile phone companies. It is anticipated that such distribution partnerships account for up to 50% of sales, rather than traditional sales and distribution structures. These new distribution methods with greater customer interactions can help, at least in part, to overcome the challenges of building a waste battery and e-waste collection and recycling system in underdeveloped nations. This involves things like waste access, creating knowledge about the implications of poor waste management, developing hand-over incentives, and logistics for collecting waste in rural locations. The provision of batteries and equipment to rural areas poses logistical and financial obstacles for proper collection and recycling at the end of their useful lives. Batteries are vital for completing the energy transition and increasing global access to clean energy, particularly for off-grid residents in African countries. It’s critical to make sure that the tremendous potential offered by batteries don’t come at the expense of the world’s most disadvantaged people. Access to information on first-life battery usage and end-of-life metrics could minimize the cost of repurposed batteries; therefore ambitious targets for battery acquisition must be set and obtained. The Energy Project Africa’s (EPA) work has focused on facilitating the long-term scale-up of the battery value chain which can sustain the African communities and businesses’ demand for off-grid energy.

The Energy Project Africa (EPA) is often involved directly in procuring components and delivering either lead-acid or lithium batteries for African communities and businesses’ uses. This is accomplished with the affiliation of battery manufacturers for Africa use. The procurement is actualised with work by European and American manufacturers, Pylontech, which focuses on developing new lithium battery solutions, Schneider, Fullriver; Index-Exide; and Deka. Many African communities and businesses are hampered by insecure and unsustainable grid supplies, as well as excessive electricity prices. We are proud to be a Nigerian firm, and we aspire to construct a future in which the local energy storage sector becomes more cost-effective, innovative, and competitive; we also hope to develop products that help both the communities and businesses in Africa.


Energy Project Africa is a leading renewable energy business in Lagos, Nigeria with expertise in procurement of energy equipment, energy audit and feasibility solutions of mini-grid and solar farms. Supply by EPA provides solar products and equipment for corporate and institutional clients for the project and operational needs. If you need a partner with hands-on local expertise in the renewable energy space or any of our bespoke solutions/services, kindly visit Mail to learn more.





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