Report: Africa Could Generate “Quarter of its Energy” From Renewables by 2030

Report: Africa Could Generate “Quarter of its Energy” From Renewables by 2030

With the cost of renewable energy technology lower than ever before, many of the world’s emerging markets are viewing renewable energy not just as a clean source of power, but as a cost-effective one.

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) claims that Africa could generate as much as one quarter of its total energy needs through the use of renewable technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines by 2030.

Africa’s unique geography makes it one of the world’s best continents for the use of renewables. Adnan Amin, the director-general of Irena, believes that Africa has one of the best positions in the world for the use of renewables as an energy source.

Solar, wind and hydropower are viewed as the most effective sources of renewable energy for Africa. Other technologies, such as biomass and geothermal energy, also have significant potential to power cities and communities.

Amin claims that the continent’s great access to renewable energy, “combined with the precipitous drop of renewable energy costs, creates a massive opportunity for African countries to both transform and expand their energy systems”.

Currently, approximately five per cent of Africa’s total electricity is generated using renewable technology. According to the report, a target of 22 per cent is possible by increasing the use of renewable technology by a factor of four in the next 15 years.

In many of the Western countries, renewable energy technology has been marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels such as coal and gas, both of which produce significant carbon dioxide emissions.

In Africa, however, renewable energy isn’t just an environmentally friendly choice – it also has a significant cost advantage thanks to the large reduction in the pricing of renewable technology over the past decade.

Renewable energy technology also offers isolated communities that currently lack any access to electricity with an affordable source of energy that isn’t dependent on national electricity infrastructure.

Similar systems, in which a communal wind turbine or hydropower system powers a village or community, have been used in many developing countries to give small, isolated settlements access to electricity.

The report concludes with a series of 14 steps that African nations can implement to increase usage of renewable energy across the continent. Amin stated that “the onus is now on Africa’s governments to create conditions to accelerate deployment”.

Renewable energy isn’t just growing in Africa. Across the world, a growing number of countries have increased their renewable energy capacity through the installation of private solar, wind and micro-hydropower systems.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy is likely to be the largest source of growth in the electricity industry over the next five year due to increased uptake by developing markets and constantly decreasing costs.

By the year 2020, the IEA believes that global renewable energy generation will be great enough to meet the electrical needs of China, Brazil and India independently, without any use of non-renewable fossil fuels.