There is no better time to review the future of renewable energy on the dark continent than on Africa Industrialization Day which is celebrated every year on November 20. This day is meant to draw attention to the ways of stimulating industry on the continent. With 30 of the world’s 50 least development nations located in Africa, there are few places more in need of such attention. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) plays an important role promoting the day and African development in general. This year marks the 24th Africa Industrialization Day.
There is no industry that holds more promise for Africa than renewable energy. Renewable energy could transform the living standards of millions of Africans. This is particularly true in remote and rural areas. On site renewable energy production is ideal in remote areas because it is far cheaper than building infrastructure to gain access to an energy grid.
There are a couple of factors that make Africa an ideal place for renewable energy initiatives. The continent is seeking market expansion and expects to see significant growth in power demand. Africa is the most undeserved electricity market in the world. According to International Energy Agency statistics, about 57 percent of Africa’s population does not have access to electricity and this number is expected to get worse before it gets better. Projections suggest that the percentage of Africans without electricity will rise to 7.5 percent by 2030. This represents a potential market of 645 million people.
The renewable energy potential of Africa was documented four years ago in a study by Frost & Sullivan titled “Mega Trends in Africa: A bright vision for the growing continent.” This report indicated that investment in renewable power in Africa is set to grow from a total of $3.6-billion in 2010 to $57-billion by 2020. This represents an almost 16 fold increase over the course of a decade.
Different parts of Africa have differing renewable potentials. For example, the Rift Valley, which stretches across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, has huge geothermal potential (nations like Iceland are already successfully harvesting massive quantities of geothermal energy so African nations can learn a lot from them).
An early 2014 report published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) has mapped the potential of renewables in the region. The report identified areas which would be best served by different sources of renewable energy. For example North Africa has good wind potential and Sub-Saharan Africa has good solar potential. Equatorial Africa may be better served by hydroelectric and biomass may be the best solution for Central Africa.
Renewable energy projects also create far more employment opportunities than fossil fuels. Photovoltaics and wind energy can create 62 and 12 jobs per gigawatt hour of electricity produced respectively, compared to less than one job in the coal industry for the same energy output.
The report stated that one of the major barriers to the growth of renewables in Africa is subsidized diesel fuel.
African Renewable Energy Alliance (AREA)
African Renewable Energy Fund (AREF)
Islamic Banks and Renewable Energy in MENA
Africa a Renewable Energy Superpower?
Africa Industrialization Day: Leapfrogging with Sustainable Energy
East Africa Can Learn from Iceland’s Geothermal Energy Industry
South Africa and the Rise of Renewable Energy on the Continent
Lesotho’s Renewable Energy Projects One of the Largest in Africa
Arab Spring Fueling the World’s Most Ambitious Solar Project in North Africa