Africa’s amazing solar power capacity

Africa is poised to capitalize on its incredible renewable energy capacity

Renewable energy– and solar power in particular– holds enormous promise for improving lives in sub-Saharan Africa.  The region receives enough sunlight to make solar power the go-to energy source for the region, all that’s needed is the infrastructure and support. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, only one-third of the population has access to electricity (in rural areas, only 15% of households have electricity)– that means that nearly 600 million people live without power.

CNN’s Marketplace Africa covers the recent advances in African renewable energy. From Teo Kermeliotis’ article (his words, my emphasis):

  • Jumping from a few hundred million dollars to $5.7 billion, South Africa recorded last year the world’s highest growth in renewable energy investment.
  • In late April, Mauritania launched what’s described as Africa’s biggest solar PV plant so far, a 15 MW facility that is designed to account for 10% of the country’s energy capacity, according to its developers.
  • Morocco began the first phase of the construction of a 160 MW concentrated solar power technology plant near Ouarzazate as part of the country’s efforts to produce 2,000 MW of solar energy by 2020.
  • Last year, British company Blue Energy announced plans to build the Nzema Project in Ghana, a 155 MW facility.

Figure 1

Center for Global Development

The UN Environment Program analysis breaks down the remarkable opportunities for investors and African nations alike when it comes to solar power.  From the report:

  • “The lack of renewable energy capacity or the environmentally unsustainable nature of electricity generation is only one of many challenges confronting the local energy sector in many developing countries, including most of sub-Saharan Africa. The need to shift from carbon-intensive to carbon-efficient and sustainable options is a relatively new challenge and needs to be viewed within the context of the broader history of the energy sector as well as alongside the current efforts to respond to the other, more immediate challenges being faced.”
  • “Recent growth in the area of renewable energy has been equally strong, with total electricity generation from renewable sources growing by 72 per cent from 1998 to 2008 (from 45 to 78 terawatt-hours per year). This means that 66 per cent of all new electricity generated in sub-Saharan Africa after 1998 has come from renewable sources.”

Power Africa

The Obama Administration’s Power Africa relies on public-private partnerships and focuses on supporting African nations as they build up their renewable power capacity by:

  • boosting investment in the clean energy sector
  • enhancing and improving the power infrastructure
  • encouraging regulatory reform and bureaucratic transparency.

According to some industry studies, the top 10 most attractive solar markets in Africa include South Africa, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Mozambique, Eritrea, Kenya and Zambia. Power Africa covers:

  • Ghana Joe Recchie's Community Renewable Energy believes solar energy will empower sub-Saharan Africa
  • Ethiopia
  • Kenya
  • Liberia
  • Nigeria
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Mozambique
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