The United States, China, India, Japan, and Europe all fit within Africa, a continent that lags behind those places in development. When it comes to energy and electricity, this lack of infrastructure or institutionalized energy systems offers some opportunities for renewable sources of energy to enter into a market that is struggling to meet demand.
The International Renewable Energy Agency recently said that Africa’s renewable energy capacity is expected to quadruple to about 120 gigawatts by 2030 if “investors dedicate substantial flows of funds to the region,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
The vast and varied landscape of Africa includes some of the best solar and wind resources in the world. On top of that, a World Bank report released this week found that Sub-Saharan Africa could provide more than 170 gigawatts of additional power-generation capacity — more than double the region’s current installations — through 3,200 “low-carbon” energy projects, such as combined heat-and-power, biofuels production, mass transportation, and energy efficiency. The report found that these projects could avoid some 740 million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent reductions each year.
“The energy deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa is enormous,” Dana Rysankova, senior energy specialist in the World Bank’s Africa Region, said in a statement. “The total generation capacity of the whole Sub-Saharan Africa is lower than that of Spain. 500 million people still lack access to electricity. It is estimated that the African countries will need to spend at least six percent of their GDP on energy over the next 10 years to keep up with their economic growth.”
The true size of Africa. Map by Kai Krause pic.twitter.com/aA2teMROwq
— Jaakko Blomberg (@JaakkoBlomberg) May 1, 2014
In an op-ed this week, Jasandra Nyker, Chief Executive Officer of BioTherm Energy, a renewable energy investment and independent project development platform focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, argues that renewable energy is the way out of poverty for many Africans. She says that a lack of competitive financing and not enough private investment in innovative technologies are what’s holding African countries back. She writes that “every country needs to adapt to renewable energy:”
There is a perception that renewables are difficult and expensive to deploy. In order to get rid of the noise in the system, we need the commitment of finance and energy ministers and their departments to meet and learn the lessons of other countries like Spain, Italy and the UK.
Renewables are the way forward for Africa, and have the potential to power the whole of the continent. But policy certainty and regulation will be crucial for the industry to attract investment and grow.
Africa also has significant oil and gas reserves, most of which are produced for export to the countries listed at the top of this article with China and the U.S. leading the demand. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Sub-Saharan Africa produced nearly 6 million bbl/d of liquid fuels in 2012, about seven percent of total world oil production. Nigeria was the fourth-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter in the world in 2012, accounting for eight percent of total LNG exports worldwide. So while Africa may be able to steer itself toward a renewable future, the nature of the global energy economy demands that all countries take action in reducing fossil fuel demand.