The Rise of Renewables in Africa
Africa is leading the way on renewable energy, which offers a huge opportunity for countries seeking energy independence. Economies in the African continent stand to be transformed by the transition of the energy sector from conventional sources to cleaner and greener renewable energy. The continent’s growing use of solar, wind, hydropower coupled with biomass and geothermal reserves is proving to be a game changer for companies in Africa. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa could meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs from indigenous and clean renewable energy by 2030. Siemens Gamesa’s Onshore CEO, Alfonso Faubel, believes that Africa could be the first continent to achieve a significant level of industrialisation with cleaner energy sources, with wind energy playing a significant role. Given this impending ramp-up, investment in sub-Saharan Africa is destined to grow by leaps and bounds.
Africa’s rapid economic expansion along with its growing population has exponentially increased the demand for energy. With failure of conventional sources of energy to meet the demands of both consumers as well as industry, renewable energy seems to be a more self-reliant and sustainable way to meet growing energy needs in the continent. Africa is richly endowed with fossil-based and renewable energy sources. Their biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar or wind resources are among the best in the world. Though the amount of renewable resources vary, all of the African countries do have significant renewables potential. The continent’s vast natural resources means that there is plenty of opportunity for low-cost clean energy development with the right mix of renewable sources. Furthermore, the decreasing cost of renewable technologies makes such sources of energy highly economical.
Modern renewable energy sources could also be an opportunity to accelerate social and economic prosperity by eliminating power shortages, bringing electricity to rural areas, spurring on industrial growth, creating entrepreneurs, and a general well-being across the continent. The new energy sector also has the potential to empower communities and create more jobs for the locals. However, adopting these changes require major institutional support, including clear policies, an enabling environment with laws, regulation and governance, as well as viable business schemes to encourage private sector investment, that would ensure accelerated renewables deployment. As a promising sign of things to come, African leaders have seen the opportunity that renewable energy sources present for their nations and have already succeeded in taking steps necessary to scale up renewables adoption. Regional cooperation is also very important in bringing about economies of scale by deploying renewable energy technologies in a coordinated manner and across borders. The rewards accruing to countries that meet the challenge will be immense.