The Shift Toward Renewable Energy In Africa

The Shift Toward Renewable Energy In Africa

Africa is experiencing a revolutionary transition towards renewable energy sources due to its abundant natural resources and growing energy consumption. This paradigm shift positions the continent as a major player in the global clean energy landscape in addition to addressing the urgent need for sustainable power solutions.

The two main energy challenges facing African countries in the next decades are switching to renewable energy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and providing sustainable energy to all by 2030. The majority of Africa’s energy-related emissions come from the electricity sector, which is the subject of this article. It examines obstacles to the switch to renewable energy and suggests solutions for African partners and governments. African nations can work towards a sustainable energy future by embracing a common strategy and tackling political and economic obstacles, promoting access, resilience, and prosperity across the continent.

Africa’s current energy situation

In 2018, Africa was facing serious energy-related difficulties. On the continent, 548 million people did not have access to electricity, and 900 million people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, cooked with traditional biomass. This energy shortfall created significant obstacles to economic growth in addition to making daily living more difficult. The inability of businesses in different industries to obtain inexpensive and dependable energy hindered their ability to expand. It appears that things will only get worse from here on out. Africa is expected to have one billion more people living in Sub-Saharan Africa and nearly 100 million more in Northern Africa by 2050. Because of the increasing population, there will be a greater need for strategic interventions to close the growing gap between supply and demand for energy.

The Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) of the United Nations recognises the urgent need for action and seeks to provide everyone with universal access to modern, reasonably priced, and dependable energy services by 2030. SDG 7 also aims to improve energy efficiency and utilise more renewable energy. In addition to being essential for enhancing livelihoods, reaching these goals also acts as a spark for the accomplishment of other SDGs. It is significant to highlight that women and girls, who frequently shoulder the primary responsibility for managing household energy needs, are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to modern energy. Africa has a varied energy landscape, with notable differences in each nation’s electrical infrastructure. These variations have an impact on the paths taken to reduce emissions by 2050 and provide universal access to electricity by 2030. Significant differences still exist even though there has been progress—access to electricity went from 36% in 2000 to 54% in 2018. 548 million Africans still do not have access to electricity in rural areas, making it a persistent challenge.

39% of Africa’s energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017 came from the electricity industry. Nation-to-nation variations in per capita emissions brought to light internal differences in the sources and patterns of energy consumption. In 2019, only 20% of installed electricity generation capacity in Africa came from renewable sources, despite the urgent need to switch to cleaner energy sources. Despite being historically dominant, its share has decreased from 92% in 2010 to 67% in 2019, indicating the need for investment in renewable energy infrastructure and diversification. This decline is predicted to continue in the absence of concerted efforts to increase renewable energy capacity, which will exacerbate environmental concerns even more. A steady supply of electricity is essential for promoting prosperity and economic growth. However, a lack of funding for generation and infrastructure has left many African power systems vulnerable to unstable grids and frequent outages. Nearly 25% of households with access to electricity reported inconsistent supply, according to a recent survey, highlighting the critical need for enhancements in infrastructure resilience and grid reliability. There exist notable variations in the accessibility and dependability of electricity across various nations. In Mauritius, for example, the comparable figure was a meagre 1%, whereas 79% of Nigerians with access reported that electricity was available for only half the time or less.

Africa’s energy problems call for a multimodal response that includes strengthening grid resilience and reliability, investing in infrastructure for renewable energy sources, and implementing policy changes. African countries can achieve substantial socio-economic advantages and make headway towards accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals by placing a high priority on ensuring that all citizens have access to modern, sustainable energy services. Africa needs to work together with other governments, international organisations, and private sector players in order to achieve a resilient and inclusive energy future.

Electricity sectors in Africa: Moving Forward to 2050

In the face of increasing demand, ensuring sustainable and dependable access to electricity requires more than just classifying households as connected or disconnected. It includes making sure there is a steady and adequate supply to support economic activity and create job opportunities. Moreover, it calls for an economic extension that guarantees the financial sustainability of utilities, on or off the grid, and makes electricity available to even the poorest households. In the end, the goal is to make it possible for people to benefit from a reliable supply of electricity daily.

Governments that rely on the production of electricity from fossil fuels must make the shift to renewable energy technologies and phase out their current fossil fuel-based generation capacity. It is necessary to put policies in place in emerging electrical systems to guarantee that future development routes are based on carbon-free resources. Even though renewable energy is more affordable than fossil fuels, there are still structural obstacles that could encourage the construction of coal and natural gas power plants. To realise the full promise of renewable energy in Africa, these obstacles must be removed. Political commitment increased regional and continental integration, supportive sector policies and regulatory frameworks, and economically viable electricity sectors are all necessary to achieve these lofty goals. This chapter outlines how African power systems could be transformed and highlights crucial areas of action that are essential to any political initiative that aims to end energy poverty and achieve the low-carbon development of African electricity sectors by the year 2050.

The demand for electricity in Africa will rise due to demographic changes, increased economic activity brought on by rising per capita GDP, and the achievement of electricity access targets. The main factors influencing Africa’s demand for electricity are listed below. Depending on each country’s starting point and economic outlook, each driver has a different relative importance. Given that urban residents generally use more electricity than those living in rural areas, demographic trends are expected to drive both population growth and urbanisation, which will increase the demand for electricity. Between 2020 and 2050, Africa is predicted to account for over half of the global population increase, with Sub-Saharan Africa expected to double by then. Africa currently has the youngest population of any continent, and rising life expectancy will contribute to a long-term population boom.

The need for electricity is growing along with emerging economies. In short, rising economies in developing countries increase the demand for consumer electricity as households accumulate more wealth and devote some of it to appliances and electricity. Productive demand rises concurrently with the emergence of new companies and the expansion of current ones. Demand is also shaped by national, regional, and continental policies in addition to macroeconomic trends. Specifically, there will be a spike in electricity demand if continued efforts to increase access to sustainable energy sources—like the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative and the AfDB’s New Deal on Energy for Africa—succeed. Along with higher demand from connections already in place, consumption from recently connected households is expected to become a major contributor to Africa’s electricity demand as access expansion investments increase. However, the quality and affordability of access will determine how great this demand is. According to the IEA’s Africa Case scenario, residential electricity consumption in Africa is expected to rise by 350% between 2018 and 2040. This implies that the average person with home electricity access will consume roughly 50% more electricity in 2040 than in 2018, even as access expands. According to ESMAP’s SE for ALL Global Tracking Framework, Tier 5, the highest level of energy supply, would be approached by the anticipated demand in 2040.

Facilitating the transition of Africa to renewable energy

Due to its wealth of renewable energy resources, Africa is well-positioned to provide affordable, clean electricity to meet the growing electricity needs of its growing economies and population. However, earlier sections have noted a number of common structural barriers impeding energy transition in many African electricity sectors. The impediments include: i) insufficient capacity in key institutions, which results in subpar sector planning and management; ii) inadequate or nonexistent regulatory and legal frameworks, making private investment in renewable energy prohibitively expensive and, in some cases, making it unfeasible; iii) electricity grids with high loss rates and limited capacity to accommodate variable renewable generation; iv) in some cases, the exorbitant costs associated with decentralised solutions, such as mini-grids; and v) financially unsustainable grid and service providers, like utilities and mini-grid operators, who are unable or unwilling to increase access, carry out essential maintenance, or make investments to guarantee supply security.

It is clearly necessary for African countries and pan-African organisations to work together, with assistance from development partners, to address these systemic barriers and bring about universal access and decarbonisation. But every nation sets out on a different path in the energy transition, with different political goals and socioeconomic bases. Each country’s current reliance on fossil fuels, industrial productivity levels, changing technological preferences, and the breadth and diversity of domestic supply chains will all have an impact on the pace and final results. Other relevant factors include national and regional transition plans, institutional structures, capabilities, and policy objectives, along with the necessary political will and resolve to overcome systemic opposition to reform initiatives that contradict dominant political economies. Therefore, a customised strategy is required to attain universal electricity access by 2030 and a developmental trajectory towards a decarbonised electricity sector that is in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement throughout Africa by 2050. This chapter explains the various ways in which development partners can assist African nations in pursuing their unique plans for ubiquitous, consistent access to electricity and a future free of carbon emissions.

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