- The IEA report on Africa’s energy outlook envisions a continent meeting all its energy related goals by 2030, mostly with renewables, under SAS scenario
- It can see 290 GW solar, wind, hydro and geothermal providing 290 GW new capacity, accounting for 80% of power generation capacity
- Mini-grids and standalone systems, with most using solar PV, can be viable options for those in rural areas
- Clean energy can also be used for green hydrogen and to power its vast mineral resources
Africa holds only 1% of the world’s installed solar PV capacity, however under the Sustainable Africa Scenario (SAS) in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) new energy outlook report, there is potential for 125 GW solar to be added between 2021 and 2030 here along with meeting the universal access to affordable electricity.
This way, solar PV will hold the largest share out of 290 GW renewable capacity additions the IEA estimates the continent to add till 2030 under SAS scenario in its Africa Energy Outlook 2022. Apart from solar, this renewables capacity is expected to come from wind, hydropower and geothermal, accounting for 80% of new power generation capacity under this scenario.
Under the SAS scenario envisioned in the report, the IEA sees all energy-related development goals achieved to be powered majorly be renewables while ensuring it is affordable.
“Once coal‐fired power plants currently under construction are completed, Africa builds no new ones, underpinned mainly by China’s announcement to end support for coal plants abroad. If the investment initially intended for these discontinued coal plants were redirected to solar PV, it could cover half of the cost of all of Africa’s solar PV capacity additions to 2025 in the SAS,” reads the report.
Currently 600 million Africans or 43% of Africa’s total population, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, do not have access to electricity. The report writers believe extending national grids is the ‘least costly’ and most prudent option’ for close to 45% of those gaining access to 2030.
Batting for renewables, the IEA says best in class solar PV and wind projects are already cheaper than new gas and coal plants in most parts of the continent, and may become even more competitive by 2030.
In rural areas, mini-grids and standalone systems mostly based on solar, can be the most viable options. The report estimates incremental installed capacity of mini-grids averaging around 300 MW annually over 2021 to 2030 out of which 225 MW is based on solar PV, under SAS. Currently less than 280 MW of solar mini-grids are operational in the continent.
The report also touches upon the vast mineral resources that Africa abounds in, providing an opportunity for clean energy growth as well as for green hydrogen that it can also export at internationally competitive price points.
“The immediate and absolute priority for Africa and the international community is to bring modern and affordable energy to all Africans – and our new report shows this can be achieved by the end of this decade through annual investment of $25 billion, the same amount needed to build just one new LNG terminal a year,” IEA head Dr Fatih Birol added. “It is morally unacceptable that the ongoing injustice of energy poverty in Africa isn’t being resolved when it is so clearly well within our means to do so.”
The report can be downloaded for free from the IEA’s website.