Opinion

Africa should accelerate transition to renewable energy


Sola panel. Photo/Courtesy

The need for renewable energy and energy transition in Africa is urgent, considering over 600 million people on the continent have no access to electricity and 900 million have no access to clean cooking fuel.  

 Access to energy is crucial not only for the attainment of health and education outcomes, but also for reducing the cost of doing business and for unlocking economic potential and creating jobs.  

 Forecasts by the International Renewable Energy Agency indicate that with the right policies, regulation and access to financial markets, sub-Saharan Africa could meet up to 67 per cent of its energy needs by 2030. 

 Africa’s energy potential, especially renewable energy, is enormous, yet only a fraction of it is being currently employed.

But the good news is that a lot of countries in Africa are increasingly embracing renewables as an enabler to leapfrog to sustainable energy future.

 According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South Africa have shown firm commitment towards accelerated use of modern renewable energy and are leading energy transition efforts, while some of Africa’s smaller countries including Cape Verde, Djibouti, Rwanda and Swaziland have also set ambitious renewable energy targets.

Others are following suit, and renewable energy is on the rise across the continent.

 Kenya is a pioneer in geothermal energy in Africa and holds  the fifth position globally.

While the country’s geothermal potential is 10,000+ MW,  the amount currently tapped is under 10 per cent. This presents huge investment opportunities.

Kenya is a model for clean energy generation in Africa with about 90 per cent of our power coming from non-fossil fuel sources.

And the country is on track to provide universal energy access by 2022.

 The world is going through profound change in energy, and the renewable energy has moved to the centre-stage of the global energy landscape and are now competitive with conventional energy sources in many places around the world.

An accelerated deployment of renewables can quench the energy thirst of growing economies and secure access for millions at speed unimaginable only a decade ago.

There is need to strengthen policy commitment, as policy and regulatory stability, transparency and predictability are fundamental to attracting investments and driving cost reduction.

And there is need to support innovation, not only in technologies, but also in policy, business models and market design. 

The IEA’s 2019 Africa Energy Outlook showed how existing policy and investment plans in many African countries still fell short of meeting their growing energy needs.

The crosscutting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have now made the situation even more worrying, with energy investment in Africa expected to fall by 32 per cent in 2020, based on analysis in the IEA World Energy Investment Outlook 2020.

These developments further highlight the importance of strengthening the enabling environment for investment in infrastructure and all relevant technologies, and continuing to prioritise attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Action on all these fronts is essential in Africa at this pivotal moment when the world collectively faces urgent and shared challenges to build back economies, create jobs and accelerate clean energy transitions.

Significant new investment is now critically needed to accelerate the growth of renewable energy in Africa so as to ensure sufficient, affordable, reliable energy for all citizens and drive inclusive, just and sustainable energy transitions.

Governments can play an enabling role by promoting and implementing policies that enable this acceleration.

These could be linked to related actions to strengthen energy security, scale up infrastructure investment and promote the growth of the green economy.

Most importantly, governments need to collaborate more with the private sector to invest in sustainable energy that has proved to be both effective and profitable. —The wrtier is a public policy analyst — [email protected] 





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