Sub-Saharan Africa is suffering a huge energy deficiency which is stunting growth and hindering development
An estimated 70 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa lives without reliable access to electricity. In Gabon and Nigeria, manufacturing struggles as electricity remains costly and inconsistent. Power outages, brownouts and outright power failures disable everyone in African communities. The rising costs of fuel are vastly disproportionate to increased incomes. Solutions for alternative energy must be adopted.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $30 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity by 2030. Rural sub-Saharan Africa will require the vast amount of the funds, with more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lacking access to reliable electricity.
Here’s a look at the current renewable landscape in sub-Saharan Africa
Hydropower provides great opportunities across the entire sub-Saharan African region. The Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia is expected to deliver up to 6,000MW to the country, with neighboring Djibouti and Somalia inquiring about the potential of importing such energy. But a recent spat between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan stresses the challenges in sharing water resources, especially those pertaining to hydropower potential. Studies also indicate that Ethiopia’s growth in hydropower may not necessarily mean cheaper electricity for its neighbors.
Sub-Saharan African wind production is booming, with East Africa seeing a major bump in wind energy generation. Wind energy commitments in Kenya skyrocketed from zero in 2011 to $1.1 billion in 2012, underscored by the Lake Turkana Wind power project which will provide 300 MW to the Kenya electrical grid. A 150 MW wind farm in northern Senegal and a 52 MW wind farm in Ethiopia signify the growing interest in wind in Africa’s poorer countries. According to the World Bank, areas with promising wind potential include north of 34%, 6% and 5% of the households in Ethiopia, Ghana, and Kenya respectively. Due to wind speeds, the greatest potential for wind power exists in West Africa. A few wind projects of 30 to 50MW in Senegal is just the start. Wind projects in Cape Verde, according to energy officials, could help the country escape its dependence on fuel imports.
Coal and gas power plants will continue to grab headlines in Africa. New gas discoveries in Tanzania and Mozambique as well as oil booms in Angola and Ghana should not overshadow Africa’s enthusiastic efforts to develop renewable energy. Rural populations could benefit greatly from such efforts. One local living outside Rwanda’s capital Kigali, best summarized the opportunity and return: “Investors are not talking renewable energy like oil and gas, but renewable has benefited me at this stage.” The solar panels providing energy to a local school spoke greater volumes than his words.