by Dave Elliott
Africa has amongst the world’s best renewable energy potential globally, given its climate, with solar an obvious choice, hydro already being well established and wind beginning to be taken up. Biomass and, in some areas, geothermal, are also very significant options. However, hydro apart, the continent only just started to exploit these resources. (more…)
By Dave Elliott
The International Renewable Energy Agency says that Africa has the potential and the ability to utilise its renewable resources to fuel the majority of its future growth with renewable energy. It adds ‘doing so would be economically competitive with other solutions, would unlock economies of scale, and would offer substantial benefits in terms of equitable development, local value creation, energy security, and environmental sustainability’.
That seems a bold claim both technologically and economically, and also politically. But the renewable resource is very large (for solar especially) and the technologies are getting cheaper fast. However, with 54 very unevenly developed countries on the huge continent, whether the political and institutional cohesion is there for a co-ordinate push is less certain. (more…)
Last year, the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) and the EU, together with the African Union, launched a 10 year Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP), and announced a planned contribution of €5 million to start the programme.
EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs said: “Today 1.6 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Poor energy systems undermine growth potential in these countries from 1 to 2%. We need a reliable source of electricity to fuel development. Africa has a vast untapped renewable energy potential, ranging from hydro, to solar, wind, geothermal and biomass which could be used to ensure millions of people access to electricity”.
The Road Map for the Implementation of the EU-Africa Energy Partnership includes three priority areas and the following targets:
Energy access: Africa and the EU will take joint action to bring access to modern and sustainable energy services to at least an additional 100 million Africans by 2020. This will be a contribution to the African objective of giving access to modern and sustainable energy to an additional 250 million people.
Energy security: Africa and the EU will take joint action to improve energy security by doubling the capacity of cross-border electricity interconnections and by doubling the use of natural gas in Africa, as well as doubling African gas exports to Europe.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency: Africa and the EU will take joint action such as-
- Building 10,000 MW of new hydropower facilities;
- Building at least 5,000 MW of wind power;
- Building 500 MW of solar energy
- Tripling the capacity of other renewables
- Raising energy efficiency in Africa in all sectors.
While that’s good news, 500MW of PV solar is embarrassingly small, and 5GW is not much of a 2020 target for wind. For example it’s been claimed that Kenya alone could have 800MWof wind generating capacity within 3 years and I’ve seen wind resource estimates of 2.8GW for Ghana, while South Africa could have much more.
A recent Earthlife analysis suggested that South Africa could obtain over 50% of its power from renewables (400TWh p.a) by 2050, with the potential for on-land wind being put at 50GW, the wave potential at 10GW, and the solar potential being enough in theory to supply the needs of the whole country. See: http://www.earthlife.org.za/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/rebriefingpaperfinal5aug08.pdf
Moreover, moving up to North Africa, Egypt is planning a 1GW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Suez, and 7.2GW of wind by 2020, while Morocco has a huge wind resource -its just started building a 200 MW wind farm outside Tarfaya. And then there’s Concentrated Solar Power- perhaps 10MW by 2020, including Desertec projects across the Sahara and some in South Africa: see my earlier Blog: http://environmentalresearchweb.org/blog/2010/08/only-connect–cspsupergrid-iss.html. Wave power is also beginning to make its mark: in addition to project off the Cape, a 100MW wave power plant is planned off the Kenyan coast. And for much of Africa, biomass represents a huge potential resource, if it’s done right. It’s the same for PV solar. So far the emphasis has often been on fairly token projects, often parachuted in and left without proper maintenance back up. Hopefully things will change, with the RECP programme. But it needs more than top-down aid programmes – it needs local involvement, training and skill development to support the growth of local jobs, and technical and economic capacities.
‘The solar radiation Africa receives could make this continent the Saudi-Arabia of the future’. That was a summary of the conclusions from the recent ‘Power Kick for Africa’ strategy workshop on renewable energy policies organised by the World Future Council Foundation, in cooperation with the Energy Commission of Ghana.
That brought together representatives from utilities, regulators, industry and civil society from ten African countries. They said they were determined to expand their cooperation under the umbrella of the African Renewable Energy Alliance (AREA).
AREA link: [http://area-network.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
Let’s hope initiatives like that, coupled with RECP, really begin to make a difference and overcome some of the problems that have bedevilled economic and social development in much of Africa. So far most new investment in energy systems in Africa does seem to have been focused on large capital projects of uncertain social and environmental impact, the most familiar perhaps (leaving aside oil!) being the giant 100GW hydro project planned for the Congo river. In addition, South Africa has had ambitions to expand nuclear capacity. However a proposed new reactor programme, and the development of the Pebble Bed Modular reactor, have now both been shelved, although a recent government report did still see nuclear playing a role, along with renewables, in the proposed attempt to cut coal use by half by 2030.
Does Africa really need nuclear? It has abundant solar and other renewable sources, many of which can be developed effectively on a local decentralised basis, unlike nuclear power. Their use would seem to offer an economically effective, socially equitable and environmentally sound way to cut emissions and aid social and economic development- a view developed in a radical new book ‘Electric capitalism: recolonization in Africa on the power grid’ by David McDonald et al, http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/