“To deal with this growing energy demand, the phenomenon of urbanisation and to resolve the problem of energy access that afflicts millions of people on the continent, the fastest and most sustainable and competitive response are renewable plants on an industrial scale, connected to the grid.”
According to forecasts, the average annual growth of renewable energy in Africa will be about 8 GW through 2022, with solar photovoltaic taking the lion’s share with about 15 GW to be installed in the coming years. Hydropower should reach around 13 GW, followed by wind with 10 GW.
A Resource-Rich Continent
The African continent offers interesting opportunities to those who are ready to seize them.
Africa, in fact, has enormous development potential for all the green technologies because of the availability of resources spread over the various regions, from hydropower to sun, to wind and the geothermal energy in some specific countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia.
“The wealth of natural resources in Africa, together with the decline in costs of renewable technology, tested around the world in recent years, will foster investments on an industrial scale, especially for wind and solar technologies.”
Just look at the numbers: the cost of wind turbines has decreased by almost a third since 2009, the cost of solar panels has dropped by 80%, and further reductions are expected.
Enabling Factors for the Development of Renewables
There are plenty of obstacles. Political instability and the lack of a stable and clear regulatory framework are two of the main factors slowing down the entrance of international investors.
Although more and more countries are choosing to include regulatory frameworks plans in their industrial policies that incentivise private investments in renewables. But to attract international investments, well-structured international financing projects must be added to the regulatory frameworks. These must be able to mitigate the risk to the investor: like Scaling Solar, the programme sponsored by the World Bank, which is able to offer interesting opportunities for business in emerging markets.
In this sense, the forum at the Milanese university was a great opportunity to interact with representatives from the African public and private sectors and create the foundations for close and open collaboration.
The other aspect we cannot ignore is infrastructure. Despite its large size, Africa has fewer kilometres of per capita transmission lines compared to other areas in the world. The combined length of transmission in Africa is just over 100,000 km. That’s not much when we think that just Brazil has a longer transmission network than Africa, while the one in the United States is more than double that length. The situation is even more striking if we consider the kilometres of line to the continent’s population.
“Building more transmission lines and reinforcing the existing ones is an essential part of the expansion of the African energy sector. Governments need to implement schemes similar to those seen in the generation sector in order to attract private investments in transmission as well.”
Overcoming the structural and regulatory obstacles with be the most advantageous and sustainable way to drive the development of the continent, and solve the problem of energy access for all.