IEA: Africa Could Host 320 GW Installed PV Capacity In 2040

Solar PV Holds Potential To Become Largest Installed Electricity Source In Africa With 320 GW Capacity By 2040 Exceeding Hydro Power & Natural Gas, Says Africa Energy Outlook 2019 By IEA
07:19 AM (Beijing Time) - 11. November 2019
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In the Africa Case scenario of its newly released Africa Energy Outlook 2019, the IEA sees solar PV installed capacity increasing from just 5 GW on the continent today to 320 GW by 2040, increasing by an average of 15 GW annually to become the largest power generation source in terms of installed capacities.

Key Takeaways

  • In its soon to be released World Energy Outlook 2019, the IEA claims solar PV can become the largest electricity source in Africa in terms of installed capacity by 2040
  • It would then be ahead of even hydro power and natural gas generating 533 TWh of clean power
  • For Africans to have access to reliable electricity, the IEA report expects an investment requirement of some $120 billion annually through 2040
  • Supportive government policies, availability of finance, grid and utility infrastructure improvement are among the requirements that the IEA sees Africa needing to be able to provide electricity to all of its population

“If policy makers put a strong emphasis on clean energy technologies, solar PV could become the continent’s largest electricity source in terms of installed capacity by 2040.” In actual terms, this estimate means 320 GW PV for the African continent compared to the current capacity of 5 GW. But this would be possible only in a growth scenario with improved technological efficiencies, supportive regulatory policies, availability of enough finance among other asks.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) makes this observation about solar in Africa in its forthcoming flagship report World Energy Outlook 2019 to be released on November 13, 2019. The focus on Africa appears as an excerpt called Africa Energy Outlook 2019 from the flagship report.

The in-depth study on Africa claims that current policy and investment plans on the African continent are insufficient to meet the energy needs of its 600 million people who lack access to electricity today. In fact, current policies would still leave 530 million without electricity access in 2030, falling well short of the universal access goal. The continent is also not safe from the expected rise in temperatures, a likely result of the climate change.

All is not lost though. There is still time, says the IEA as it believes that provided the right policies, using its abundant rich natural resources and technological advancements, Africa could be able to meet the energy demand of an economy four times larger than today’s with only 50% more energy.

“Electricity demand in Africa today is 700 TWh, with the North African economies and South Africa accounting for over 70% of the total. Yet it is the other sub-Saharan Africa countries that see the fastest growth to 2040,” points out the report.

Renewables, particularly PV, hold immense potential for the continent as the current cumulative installation of 5 GW accounts for less than 1% of the global total. In the report’s ‘STEPS’ base case scenario, the IEA sees solar accounting for 229 TWh of power output by 2040. However, in its Africa Case (AC) scenario, with improved policies, technological advancements and falling costs, it could even go up to 533 TWh by the same year.

The Africa Case scenario is based on ‘Agenda 2063′, which is a strategic framework set up by African leaders for the continent’s economic and industrial development.

According to the IEA, annual deployment of solar PV capacity can average up to almost 15 GW annually, reaching a total installed solar capacity of 320 GW in 2040, which would make solar the largest electricity source in terms of installed capacity on the continent, ahead of hydropower and natural gas.

For this to actually happen, the authors of the report suggest building reliable power systems, improvement in transmission and distribution assets, targeted investment to reduce power outages. On top, regulatory support is required to bring reliable power to all Africans, among other necessities, and an investment of around $120 billion annually through 2040 which again is possible if enough financing arrangements are available and an improvement in the financial and operational efficiency of utilities.     

“Africa has a unique opportunity to pursue a much less carbon-intensive development path than many other parts of the world,” said IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol. “To achieve this, it has to take advantage of the huge potential that solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas and energy efficiency offer.”

Anu Bhambhani

Anu Bhambhani is the Senior News Editor of TaiyangNews

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Anu Bhambhani