Africa utilising only a tiny proportion of its renewable-energy resources – foundation

5th May 2023 By: Donna Slater - Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

As much of the world embraces a shift in electricity generation away from fossil fuels towards greener, renewable sources of energy, Africa faces several challenges in attracting investment capital to undertake a significant energy transition, renewable energy support foundation Renewable Energy Solutions for Africa (RES4Africa) secretary-general Roberto Vigotti stated on April 19.

Speaking during the first of RES4Africa’s Online Lab series, he said Africa’s energy sector was faced with five main decisions about its green energy trajectory, including its ambitions to achieve universal access to energy, meeting energy demand growth and building a reliable power system.

The third challenge faced in Africa is how the continent will bring the conventional energy sector up to date in terms of the transition from oil and coal to gas and renewables, among other forms of energy, said Vigotti.

He explained that Africa needed to “step up” its efforts to attract finance for green energy solutions and bridge the investment gap in this regard.

Investment into renewable energy in Africa fell to an 11-year low in 2021, comprising 0.6% of the global total. In this regard, lenders for renewable energy projects worried about the risks of taking on new projects in often politically or economically unstable countries.

Vigotti also said Africa should keep a careful eye on its committed green commitments, such as pledges towards meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Conference of the Parties commitments.

However, he acknowledged that vast parts of Africa were rural and that Africa, as a continent, was the worst performing in terms of its populations’ access to electricity. Central Africa is a particular problem in terms of providing rural citizens with electricity.

In this regard, Vigotti explained that mini-grid, off-grid and grid-densification systems needed to be incorporated with standalone wind and solar energy systems to increase access to electricity.

He stated that renewables had many benefits for electrifying Africa because they could be rapidly deployed, were low cost and modular, and produced no carbon emissions.

Vigotti noted that renewable energy, implemented in the current market conditions, could provide help in multiple ways to meet Africa’s energy and development goals, including growing Africa’s clean power sector and meeting energy demand growth.

Renewable energy could also boost energy access by electrifying urban, periurban and remote locations by deploying various appropriate technologies.

Renewable energy, he added, could also boost Africa’s industrialisation efforts by energising applications for industrial transformation, as well as being a multiplier of gross domestic product through creating new jobs, improving health and increasing food and water security.

In 2022, solar generation increased by 24%, making it the fastest growing source of electricity for 18 years in a row.