Africa needs a new energy mix

Friday, March 11, 2016

It is a known fact the electricity access rate in Africa is desperately low. An African uses on average 1,000 kilowatts-hour per year, when a European or an American uses between 7,000 and 14,000 ! But we know that if the continent were 100% electrified, African growth would increase by 10-15% per year for 15 years. Therefore, there is a real challenge, and this involves the competitiveness of renewables.

$ 10 billion were pledged by Europe and the G7 countries in the context of the African Initiative for Renewable Energies during the COP21. If this is good news, the fact remains that it is only part of the solution. Indeed, Africa must succeed to adopt a new energy mix: there is an urgent need to initiate the transition to a lower carbon economy. Today, the continent remains highly dependent on fossil fuels, while it does have unusually high potential for production from renewable resources (solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric power …).

The decline in renewable energy prices (especially regarding ​​solar energy and wind power) makes possible this energy revolution. And this is essential: it is the reason why a protocol agreement was signed between NEPAD and Power Africa to launch the African Vision for the Energy sector (AVE). This is a long-term plan to increase access to reliable and affordable energy using diversified energy resources in Africa. The AVE intends to achieve an electrification rate of 80% for households and 90% for companies by 2040, providing enough energy to serve those who are connected to the network while applying decentralized electrification solutions and making full use of the African renewable energy resources.

The AVE hosts priority projects that can really make a difference: for example, the DESERTEC solar energy project in the North West Sahara or the Batoka Gorge hydroelectric project in the Zambezi Basin. I hope with all my heart that these projects will serve as examples: they can accelerate the renewable revolution in Africa!

Thus, the continent must start using technologies which benefit from renewable energy sources and thus contribute to the fight against global warming without sacrificing economic development. This requires a deep commitment on the part of the institutional players and the private sector.

I encourage African countries and development partners (including the United States, the European Union and other bilateral / multilateral partners), to support and take forward all forms of energy development, given that the energy problem is one of the main obstacles to the continent development. The way for us to succeed in making the electricity deficit in Africa an opportunity is to pool our forces!


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