Africa’s Renewable Energy Initiative – Goal, Commitment & Progress

How Renewable Energy Can Change Africa’s Economic Picture?

Annually, more than 600,000 women and children in Africa die on account of indoor air pollution.  The cause is associated with the use of firewood for cooking. The special report comes from Africa Energy Outlook 2019. It also shows that the energy demand in the African continent will rise with the growing population. Between 2019 and 2040, one-in-two people added to the global population are set to be African. And by 2023, the continent will become the world’s most populated region, surpassing China and India. 

Further, considering climate change impact, Central Africa is already affected by constantly rising annual mean temperatures. And the same phenomenon is predicted to impact the entire continent in the next two to three decades. 

While this is the latest report, a massive clean energy initiative led by Africa is working on improving this situation, since 2016. All 55 nations that make up the continent are part of this project. For the purpose of funding, several European, American and Asian countries have entered a partnership. 

What is the aim of the initiative? Who is involved? How is it being furthered? Answers to these questions and more are given ahead!

The Initiative 

Solar Energy - Africa’s Abundant Energy Source For Economic Prosperity

The entire African continent is spearheading what is known as ‘The Africa Renewable Energy Initiative’ (AREI). The initiative follows the mandate of the African Union. And is being endorsed by the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change. The vision is to achieve a minimum of 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020. And a minimum of 300 GW by 2030.   

The AREI is split into three distinct phases. The first phase is the Immediate Establishment Phase that operated from 2016 to 2017. The second phase from 2017 to 2020 will work on assessments, preparations and critical enabling activities at the African continental level. During the same period, a number of pioneering nations will set the basis of enhanced acceleration in the third phase. And the third will work on the full-scale rollout of nationwide approved policies, programmes and incentives. 

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The Goal 

There are two all-embracing goals of the AREI. One is to help achieve sustainable development, sound economic growth, and improved wellbeing. This will be done by enabling universal access to an adequate amount of affordable and clean energy. The second goal is to aid African nations to strengthen their renewable energy systems that support low-carbon development. While ensuring this, the initiative will also work on improving economic and energy security. 

Going into detail, the initiative focuses on going beyond expanding electricity access for households and families. It aims at providing an adequate capacity of modern energy carriers to push the advancement of the productive sectors. These include prospering economic development, job creation, and enhanced resilience. As part of this, it will address the needs of small-scale farming and from micro to medium scale enterprises. Both the quantity and quality of energy access will be taken care of. 

For people living below the poverty line, increased energy access will pave the way to improved livelihoods. With unprecedented efforts, the AREI will reach the population which is still, at present, living in the dark. Smart, distributed energy systems that can manage a mix of energy generation technologies will be adopted. 

The Principles 

  • Expanding intra-regional and international cooperation and promoting and supporting projects agreed by all countries that will be impacted. 
  • Promoting a variety of renewable energy technologies. These include solar, wind, hydro (pico to medium scale), modern biomass, geothermal, and environmentally and socially beneficial marine-based technology. 
  • Developing the full range of renewable electricity resources. Especially those that cater to poor people. These involve mini-grid to large grids, small stand-alone systems and other forms of renewable energy. 

International Commitments 

The AREI has committed to expediting access to renewable energy across the continent with a view to mobilising ample financial resources from private investors. The developed nations have jointly committed to mobilising USD$100 million by 2020 from different sources. A number of countries have already shown efforts to support the continent with significant financial commitments. 

Besides, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and African Development Bank flagship programmes have facilitated that all partners pursue the objectives of the AREI. The countries supporting Africa in this ambitious endeavour include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA, UK, Sweden and Netherlands. 

£50 Million Investment By UK Government 

Recently, at the African Investment Summit, the UK government announced winners of a £50 million investment package for the continent’s clean energy infrastructure. 

A number of projects are being supported with funding from the UK. This includes Nigeria 2050 calculator which is a modelling tool designed by UK scientists to assist the Nigerian government’s sustainable growth planning. Other projects like the solar farms in Kenya, geothermal power stations in Ethiopia and clean energy storage across sub-Saharan Africa will also receive the funding. 

Leading financial experts and scientists from the UK will work with their African equals to identify the continent’s enormous potential for renewable energy. They will provide support in the continent’s goal for energy security, empowering new industries, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. This is as stated by Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom. 

Moreover, the government will support African nations with the technical skills and expertise needed to draw investment in clean energy projects. In fact, a £30 million government investment is ready to help Kenya develop affordable low-carbon homes. Over 10,000 such homes will be constructed for rent and sale. 

Targets Achieved

Kenya is among those African nations that are showing progress in embracing renewable energy technology. The country had vowed that by 2020 its electricity generation mix would be made up of 100% clean energy. This commitment was made a few years ago when the target was close to 77%. 

Today, Kenya has constructed 310 MW Turkana Wind Farm and most lately, the 54.6 MW Garissa Solar PV Plant. Only these two power plants have pushed the target to 93%. Other major contributors include geothermal and hydro. So, Kenya is strongly anticipated to reach the set target by the end of this year. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a waste-to-energy plant called ‘The Reppie’ is not just working on reducing waste but also using it to generate clean energy. 

On the other hand, Morocco is emerging as the leader in solar energy in Africa. 32% of its energy need is being met by renewable resources. It is in a strong position to reach 44% by the end of 2020. Mozambique is having its first utility-scale solar power plant that is set to deliver power to rural areas. The energy produced will be sufficient to serve over 175,000 households. 

Similarly, Senegal is set to receive its first utility-scale wind farm. The project is estimated to deliver electricity to 300,000 households, especially in rural areas. Currently, this is the largest wind project in Sub-Saharan Africa that is demonstrating financial, technical and institutional feasibility of such projects. However, despite progress being witnessed in several nations, the current and planned efforts to deliver modern energy services are not enough. They hardly outpace the population growth, as per Africa Energy Outlook 2019. The report reveals that 530 million people will still not have access to electricity in 2030. And over one billion people will not have access to clean cooking. 

Africa owns 117% more sunshine than Germany which is the global leader in solar energy. Hence, the continent has enormous potential to position itself strongly as a clean energy leader. Southern African countries like South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are struggling to meet the targets at the moment. There are many more on the list. These countries can pay attention to their renewable energy projects by learning from the African nations showing a positive change. 

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