Plans to speed up electrification in Africa

10th October 2019 By: Kim Cloete - Creamer Media Correspondent

Africa needs to connect around 73-million people to electricity every year to reach the goal of affordable and sustainable energy for every single African by 2030, says the African Union (AU) Commission.

Atef Marzouk, head of the Energy Division of the AU Commission’s Department of Infrastructure and Energy, this week said he hoped wind energy would help to move the continent towards this goal in line with the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“For the clean energy transition in Africa to meet all the development needs, there is a need to embrace wind potential alongside the other renewable energy sources, since it is found in all parts of the continent. With necessary resources, we shall be in a position to formulate a continental wind energy programme,” he told delegates at the Windaba, Africa’s annual wind energy conference, in Cape Town.

About 600-million Africans still lack access to electricity. Half of the African population and less than 43% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity.

“This calls for radical and innovative measures and the AU Commission is at the forefront of these efforts. Africa must change the script of her energy development story and turn radically towards a more sustainable path using clean and renewable sources.”

Even in areas where there is electricity, it is often inefficient and carries health and environmental risks. Marzouk said Africa’s total energy consumption is dominated by biomass to the tune of 50%.

“The majority of this is in rural areas, where people often use old and inefficient methods. This has effects on health, the environment and long-term effects on climate change.”

He said renewable energy generation was still low on the continent, with hydro at 16%, solar and wind at 1.3%, geothermal at 0.57%, biofuels and waste-to-energy at 0.23% and nuclear at 1.57%.

Despite the low figures, Marzouk said there was now greater potential to move towards renewable energy technologies, especially given that the prices of wind and solar, in particular, had declined rapidly.

“This creates enormous opportunities for tackling energy access, growth and the generation of jobs, while addressing climate change.”

Marzouk said the AU Commission played a critical role in facilitating the creation of the right policy and regulatory environment to speed up public and private investments in energy.

The commission is spearheading harmonisation of regulatory frameworks in the electricity sector in order to establish a continent-wide electricity market. Marzouk said a strategy and action plan adopted by the AU policy organs in 2017 was currently being implemented.

He said the commission was also involved in innovative financing mechanisms.

The flagship Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility supports public and private geothermal energy project developers with grants during the initial and most risky phase of development. 

Marzouk said this had contributed immensely to geothermal energy development in the East Africa region where around 30 projects with a potential of nearly 1 500 MW across 11 countries had benefitted from grants.

He said the commission planned to replicate this model for other energy sources and had formulated programmes to develop bioenergy, solar and small hydropower resources.