Renewable energy, hope for Africa’s economic growth revival


•             Africa’s leading economies are increasingly looking to wind energy

•             Renewables are advantageous as they save money and require low maintenance

•             Energy sector is a catalyst for Africa’s economic growth

Harare – Africa is a cornucopia of renewable energy sources inclusive of sun and wind and it is about time that the continent maximises its resources. As it already has a low power generation, it is wiser that the continent turns to renewable energy, a sector also considered to be a catalyst for the continued African economic expansion.

The continent has a high risk of debt and following the blight blackouts that most of the countries have been experiencing, renewables are a favourable option for Africa because of environmental concerns and also because it is bountiful of the natural resources. Renewable energy is emerging as a solution to growing energy demand.

The SADC region had about 650MW energy deficit in 2019. The installed capacity in the SADC region is 40% more than the total installed generation capacity in Africa. It is dominated by coal fired plants mainly in South Africa. Coal is however on the road to its ban as means to curb air pollution which is worsening climate changes.

SADC is lagging behind with only 15.47 terawatt hours (TWh) (a meagre 0.23 percent of global total) of renewable energy generated for 2018. The region is by far below its potential and its energy policies must target promotion of investment in green energy.

The SADC region has the potential to produce 18GW of wind energy in Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Mozambique.

Zimbabwe’s energy sector has not been performing well, the country is operating at 27.81% of its national installed total capacity. The nation relies heavily on hydro power generation but climate variability has turned the story southwards for Zimbabwe. The main hydro power source, Kariba Dam has been registering chronic low water levels which in turn have resulted in reduced power generation.

The government last year in March launched a new National Renewable Energy Policy (NREP). This policy aims to increase clean energy through addition of installed renewable energy capacity of 1100 MW by 2015 and 2100 MW by 2030.

Mozambique has a total renewable potential of ~23,000 GW. Solar potential is the most abundant resource at 23,000 GW, followed by hydro (19 GW), wind (5 GW), biomass (2 GW), and geothermal (0.1 GW). Of this total resource, approximately 7.5 GW of priority projects have been identified in the Atlas, comprising 5.6 GW of hydro, 1.1 GW of Wind, 0.6 GW of solar, 0.13 GW of biomass, and 20 MW of geothermal.

Some of Africa’s leading economies have already embarked on the renewable energy journey. South Africa is leading in the renewable energy policy and projects. A research by BloombergNEF shows that it will lead the drive for wind power installations with an additional 3.3 gigawatts added to its energy capacity by 2024.

South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy is dealing with its national power company (Eskom) and trying to slowly reduce its addiction to coal.  The country relies on coal for some 77% of power needs, according to the department of energy. Over the next five years, South Africa is expected to dominate the market with 3.3GW, followed by Egypt (1,8GW), Morocco (1,2GW) and Saudi Arabia (1,2GW).

Following in SA’s footsteps is Kenya which opened Africa’s largest wind farm in the prior year and will soon claim 100% renewable energy from geothermal and solar. More than 350 turbines can produce up to 310 MW, which is about 17% of the country’s current daytime energy demand, the company behind the wind farm says.

Shifting to West Africa, Senegal has opened the first large-scale wind farm in its region. The windfarm is said to have the capacity to supply nearly a sixth of the country’s power after it reaches its full capacity later this year.

Ghana on the other hand is implementing a number of climate change programs that include the promotion of renewable energy aimed at lowering deforestation and forest degradation and also pursuing low carbon electricity.

According to the World Economic Forum in 2012, the energy sector contributes to economic activity in two ways, it generates employment and value by extracting, transforming and distributing energy goods and services throughout the economy. The energy impact ripples through the rest of the economy as it is an input to nearly every product and service in the economy and underpins the economic activity across each its sectors.

Renewables can affect the continent’s economy through investment, trade and electricity prices. They do not require the purchase of fuel hence eliminating fuel costs lowers cost of electricity produced. Therefore, electricity prices are not susceptible to changes in the price of fuels which will lead to more stable energy prices over the long-term period.

Renewable energy is ideal for the continent with a fiscal predicament as maintenance requirements are lower, it is long lasting and sustainable. The use of renewable energy saves money and it emits little to no pollutants into the air therefore sharply reducing carbon emissions which resonates strongly with the objective of green growth.

Turning to renewable energy will help countries whose production has been intensely affected by power blackouts to better their production as it does not run out. The increase in efficiency stimulates economic activity owing to lower energy demand per unit of GDP in the economy. Renewable energy consumption is seen as a potential engine for endogenous growth.

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