15 Aug 2015

Africa Leading the Renewable Energy Front


Africa is a continent with one of the greatest potentials for sustainable renewable energy development. From solar to geothermal energy, Africa has all it takes. An abundance of Sun throughout the continent, an ever-present wind in the East and wide-spread desert. All these have Africa set for an interesting time ahead when the continent will be mainly powered by renewable energy sources. Africa has got the deserts, the population and a pressing need to fully explore the renewable energy options in her current state of rapid development.

A report on Wikipedia captured the renewable energy potentials of Africa thus, "Many African countries receive on average a very high amount of days per year with bright sunlight, especially the dry areas, which include the deserts (such as the Sahara ) and the steppes (such as the Sahel ).This gives solar power the potential to bring energy to virtually any location in Africa without the need for expensive large scale grid level infrastructural developments. The distribution of solar resources across Africa is fairly uniform, with more than 85% of the continent's landscape receiving at least 2,000 kWh/(m² year). The report went on to reveal an even more interesting part, "a recent study indicates that a solar generating facility covering just 0.3% of the area comprising North Africa could supply all of the energy required by the European Union". If that is not a convincing proof of Africa's enormous renewable energy potentials, I wonder what would.

Thankfully, Africa and indeed Africans are very aware of both the potentials and need for renewable energy in the continent. They have also taken the initiative towards driving the effective and sustainable use of renewable energy all over the world. An interesting report on access to electricity in Africa further shows clearly where the potentials lie. The report on quora.com read thus, "According to figures from the International Energy Agency, 41.9% of the population of Africa have access to electricity (which isn't quite the same as in their homes .) However, this broadbrush figure hides some stunning differences: In North Africa, 99.0% of the population has access to electricity In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 30.5% of the population have such access 

If we drill further into the Sub-Saharan, there is a big difference between rural and urban access: Urban Electrification Rate:59% Rural Electrification Rate: 14.3%" I can really confirm the situation in the second paragraph of the report as I live in a sub-Saharan African country,Nigeria, and here, though the cities basically have access to electricity,most Nigerian cities can hardly boast of a 12-hour uninterrupted electricity supply. You can then imagine what the situation at the rural areas would be. 

It's in the light of this that the famous Senegalese singer, Akon, recently launched his Akon Lighting Africa project which uses solar energy in its quest to bring light to all parts of Africa especially the remote parts of the continent. Some weeks ago, the Akon-led team provided solar powered tablets for education in some parts of Benin republic as well as solar powered street lights amongst others.

In Nigeria, the UNDP recently supported a local renewable energy outfit to provide light in some rural communities in five front line states using photovoltaics panel and this is the pilot phase of the project. The Nigerian Bank of Industry and the UNDP are also out to support renewable energy initiatives in Nigeria.It is the same from Algeria to South Africa, Kenya to Ghana. Renewable energy, more than ever, has been seen as a long lasting solution to the imminent global energy crisis.

However, what Africa needs now is massive support for entrepreneurs in this field and making the sector an attractive investment opportunity. There's more good news though, one of the slight and seemingly meaningless criticism of the solar panels is its unclear surface but if recent reports are anything to go by, then there is already a solution to that as some scientists have developed solar panels that are not just with clear surfaces but also apparently transparent. It all looking very exciting; the future of global energy.
Chiagozie Udeh
Eco-Generation Ambassador to Nigeria, Climate Activist and a Climate Tracker.