Renewable Energy: Africa Goes Green

Burdened by growing energy dependence, an increasing number of countries have chosen to concentrate policies and investments in renewable sources.

The increase in population which, according to various estimates, is due to double the population of Africa by 2050, creates great pressure on energy demands and imposes new policies and investments to increase energy production. For this same reason, various countries are concentrating on opening new energy-generating centres, especially of the renewable energy type.

This trend was inaugurated by Morocco in 2016 when it opened one of the largest solar panel installations in the world for the production of electricity. More recently, the Minister for Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, Aziz Rabbah, announced plans for the investment of 14 billion dollars in the sector by 2023.

This is a project that forms part of a broader programme that should amount to setting aside a total of 30 billion dollars for the production of clean energy by 2030. “Our energy strategy aims at increasing the percentage of renewable energy to 52% by then, at the same time reducing the consumption of energy derived from conventional sources by 15%” the minister said.

The decision to invest in energy production is connected to the increase in demand and the attempt to reduce dependence on imports. “The annual increase in demand for energy is between 2% and 4% and today we import 93% of our energy needs» Rabbah noted.

The project to increase the production of electricity using renewable energy has also been adopted by the Zimbabwean Minister for Energy, Joram Gumbo. In fact, on his return from the conference of clean energy organised by the International Agency for renewable Energy (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi, reported that, despite Zimbabwe being behind with respect to other countries, “it is a priority that we move to create an environment favourable to the promotion of renewable energy.”

Gumbo later declared that the state is capable of developing windfarms at five different sites at sustainable cost (thanks to credits available for projects of renewable energy from the United Arab Emirates, amounting to sums from 5 to 20 million dollars) and that these wind farms would be built by some important companies from the Emirates.

Other countries determined to achieve partial or total energy autonomy using renewable sources are Capo Verde, which today produces between 24% and 35% of its energy needs using solar and wind installations, Ghana and Djibouti with the construction of solar panels. In South Africa, the first solar-powered airport has been functioning for more than two years. Kenya and Tanzania have made large investments in recent years in geothermic energy, with negative repercussions on the environment and the local population.

However, within the continent, it is the north of Africa that is taking the lead in the sector. Recently, the government of Tunisia has approved a series of projects for the production of electrical energy derived from renewable sources, for a total of 860 million dollars. Both Morocco and Tunisia – like South Africa – have, however, implemented the development of nuclear power for civil use.

Support for a drive towards green energy does not come only from the continent. Great Britain has also approved a plan costing 100 million pounds sterling to bring clean energy to 2.4 million people in Africa. The investment, announced at the margins of the UN Conference on Climate Change 2018, intends to provide, for the first time, electrical power to areas where there is none and to lower carbon emissions. This sum of 100 million pounds, according to Energy Minister Claire Perry, will help the communities to exploit the power of their natural resources and create thousands of jobs in these new economies.