The future of renewable energy in Africa
More than two-thirds of Africa population, which is approximately 600 million people, have no access to energy. For instance, there is only a 20% electricity grid access rate in Africa’s sub-Saharan countries and only seven countries in the continent with electricity rates that exceed 50%. Accessibility to stable electricity is vital in many ways. It is used to power water suppliers and telecommunication services. Electricity plays a vital role in reinforcing health care and educational delivery services. Additionally, easy access to cheap electricity speeds up the economic development in rural areas and helps in creating more job opportunities and new industries.
Nevertheless, the majority of these African countries have access to numerous sources of primary renewable energy which includes geothermal, hydro, and solar sources that provide terawatts of power. Therefore, the African countries have the potential to generate an extra ten terawatts of solar, 1gigawatts of geothermal power, and 1300 gigawatts of wind power.
With no doubt, there are so many things that must be addressed for these African counties to fully exploit the numerous wealth of clean sources of energy available at there disposal. First and foremost, it is vital to concede that most of the countries in the sub-Saharan region has numerous fossils reserves and has fossil-based energy plants. As a result, consigned interests in established business models and the cost of shifting to renewable energy might show a reluctance to change. Furthermore, people must consider the unreliability of renewable energy before making the broad move. Besides, natural factors such as the speed of wind and cloud cover cannot be controlled, and rapid variations in weather will lead to the faltering of electricity production.
Technological capability is another challenge that forces the African countries to find it hard to use renewable energy. The renewable energy sectors face many barriers such as limited data availability and lack of qualified technicians to operate and maintain equipment used in the sector. This issue of shortage trained technicians and local human resources was addressed in the just concluded An
nual Global CEO survey. The findings revealed that 90% of CEO in African countries are worried about the scarcity of key competencies. Investing in avocational studies is the only solution to deal with the problem of infrastructure deficit. This will help in increasing the number if engineers who can construct the infrastructure and the number of technicians to take of it will as well upsurge. Additionally, the investments can be an economic booster since it creates more job opportunities for the youths and empowers them to bring a positive contribution to the society.
In spite of all the challenges explained above, there are still many reasons for being optimistic about the future of production of renewable energy in Africa. It is evident that the renewable energy has experienced tremendous changes in the recent past. This is because of the promising innovation and advancement in science and technology. Furthermore, the capabilities and knowledge about the renewable energy in this continent will continue to improve. The growth of the renewable energy markets has trigged the growth of private sectors investments.
For instance, there is the Lake Turkana Wind Farm that will be fully operational soon is expected to generate energy capacity of 310MW. The wind farm has 365 wind turbines, and it is projected to cater for 17% of Kenyan’s annual energy needs. Since fossil fuel is one of the major source of commercial energy in Kenya, introducing an alternative, renewable energy is vital to advance sustainable growth. Bear in mind that petroleum provided 80% of Kenya’s commercial energy needs.
Another good example of an auspicious renewable energy sector is the one that is being constructed along the Blue Nile in the northwestern part of Ethiopia known as The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Once completed, the dam will be one of largest hydroelectric power generating plant in Africa. The project is said to generate 6000MW energy capacity and create more than 12000 job opportunities. The project will as well provide vital initiation investment in the various sectors such as fishing and agriculture.
If the sub-Saharan counties learn to take advantage of their numerous clean power resources, Africa will have the capability to propel itself and embrace a renewable energy revolution. This will help the continent experience tremendous economic growth, and this will help in successful job creation. Additionally, this will improve the quality of life of many people in the continent. On top of that, the profusion of clean energy implies that these African countries will reduce the emission of CO2 by 27% if harnessed resourcefully.
With the help of thriving energy production projects like The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya, Africa has a promising future for renewable energy schemes. Such projects and investments in the renewable energy sector serve as perfect tools when it comes to driving sustainable economic development in Africa.
As the continent is gearing towards tripling the demand for electricity by 2030, recent research has mapped out a viable strategy for generating sustainable solar and wind power. This will help many African countries to stop depending on fossil fuels and reduce the cost of power plant construction. With the right strategy to place solar and wind farms and if the countries agree to share power internationally, the majority of these nations will reduce the number of conventional power plants, such as fossil fuels and hydroelectric plants that need to be built. This will, in turn, reduce their cost of infrastructure by billions of dollars.
The most encouraging thing is that both the wind and solar sources of energy in African are gigantic, and it is something that can be tapped into for very low costs. However, heads of state should be thinking about the strategies for nurturing international collaboration to invest into these sources in a way that will capitalize on its potential while lessening its impact.
However, the main problem is that the energy-producing resources are not distributed equally within Africa. One-third of African countries use hydro-electric power as their main source of energy, but this is not accessible to all nations as the change in climate such as frequent droughts makes it an unreliable source. Additionally, those areas with solar and wind source of power are not equitable spread in throughout all areas. On top of that, the majority of individuals claim that wind and solar power are extremely6 erratic and undependable.
According to the findings, choosing the right wind sites that can perfectly match the timing of wind production with the demand for electricity will cost less than choosing a location with the greatest wind generation. If adequate transmission lines are used, strategies that are used in the timing of wind production will lead to a more even distribution of wind power capacity in all nations than those maximising the production of energy.
However, the researchers suggest that both the energy business and the work of matching energy production with demand will lessen the system costs of constructing the wind sites that have low impact. This means that there are closer to current transmission lines, closer to the regions where the electricity will be used and in the regions with numerous already existing human activities as opposed to pristine regions.
If you decide to take the strategy of positioning all the systems so that their total power generation correlates well with the demand of electricity, then you will be saving millions of dollars in one year as compared to the cost of installing electricity that is dominated by coal-burnt or hydro-electricity.
Additionally, you will produce a more equitable energy distribution throughout these African nations.
Along with strategic siting, international energy trade has the potential to enable African nations to pursue the production of wind and solar energy that can substitute the conventional types of energy generation like hydropower and coal.
Why African countries need to avoid using fossil fuels
If the African countries try to invest in long-term energy production solutions that are cost-effective, the majority of these nations will benefit greatly in the long term since they will avoid the pending economic challenges that the developed nations are going through. Even though the fossil fuels provide, a simple and easy to use a source of energy in numerous ways, the problems linked with the excessive use of fossil fuels are now many. These problems include the world’s most difficult ad large problems that touch almost all areas such as political, economic, health and environment.
Additionally, the impending energy crunch is caused by the consumption of these fossil fuels at an unsustainable rate. As the worldwide demand for fossil fuels is set to escalate each year for the next many years, the existing problems will increase. Even though a huge number of infrastructure are under construction to expand and connect to the current grid networks, there are numerous challenges, making this a viable alternative for the majority of the African population, particularly those in the rural areas.
Distributed energy production with the help of renewable energy systems sounds to be the only realistic solution that can meet the high demand for electricity, especially in the rural locations. The plan to decentralize energy in African nations is underway. The majority of countries are looking forward to the variants of the energy decentralization frameworks. A good example is the District Energy Officers.
Horizontal integration potential
Note that the solar and power sources are very scalable since you can get a system that produces from less than 1 watt to thousands of megawatts. For this reason, it will be easy to initialize the electrification of a house or a village with less initial installation capital. Additionally, the incremental and dynamic scaling is made easy as the demand for electricity increases. The module conformation of installation of wind and solar offers a level of functional redundancy, enhancing the dependability of the system. In a situation where one panel in the multi-panel solar array stops functioning, the rest of the panels in the system continues to work uninterrupted. Similarly, the failure of one wind turbine in a multi configured system will not cause the entire system to stop working.
For the reason that both solar and wind projects are designed to generate power when in use, they both offer a secure dependable and cheap electricity solution. Additionally, the system is extremely safe and less vulnerable to attack since the use of transmission equipment is avoided. This is vital to some of the African countries which are prone to conflicts. Solar and wind energy production entails simple set up process, easy to operate, easy to repair and they are durable. On top of that, they are available in abundance, capable of providing all the electrical energy needs of rural locations. The installation can be done in remote areas and fragmented low-density regions that are hard to access using the conventional grid systems.
Funding sources for these projects
Rural electrification is huge projects that cannot be financed by profit companies. In economically clipped areas, these projects should be run at a loss for them to be successful and realistic. They are numerous legitimate ways in which African nations can obtain the resources for such projects.
European nations that import oil refined from African countries are in a better position of subsiding the cost of each level alternative energy system via emission trading credits. It has been suggested for every unit of African origin carbon used in any European market, a predetermined amount of green credits or carbon credits can be created. The European associates would then decide to either give out the system with the equal amount of investment capital directly or loan the credits to fund the distribution of renewable energy sources.
International relief fund that targets poverty reduction in African countries can as well be redirected to subsidize the renewable energy projects. Because if the vital played by the electrification in support of economic and social growth, financing rural electrification in African nations is considered as a core method of addressing poverty.