Clean Energy Will Help Sub-Saharan Africa Develop

Renewable energy and distributed generation will help Sub-Saharan Africa to prosper.
Published: Tue 06 May 2014

Renewable energy and other clean technologies will play a major role in the development of sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions. This is according to a new report from Green Alliance researchers who point out that renewable energy projects represent the most cost-effective way of providing electricity to the millions of people who do not have access to reliable electricity grids.

Multi-billion dollar opportunity

Renewable distributed generation has the potential to create a multi-billion dollar economic opportunity for the region.

According to the report, renewable, off-grid technology is the most cost-effective and fastest way in which to deliver electricity to the 70% of the sub-Saharan African population who do not have access to the grid.

Of course, renewable generation also offers a number of benefits such as decreased air pollution and it creates much-needed employment in the region.

The report makes the following predictions:

  • Solar projects will create 4,000 jobs in Ghana

  • Kenya's geothermal capacity will double between 2012 and 2030

  • Ethiopia's wind capacity will grow eight per cent between 2012 and 2030.

Renewable energy projects are already driving economic growth and are replacing diesel generators which have very high operating costs. The report demonstrates how solar power has given 2.5 million Kenyan households access to energy, while projects to distribute solar-powered lamps have helped increase the amount of time children can study and helped families save over 12% of their income by phasing out kerosene lamps.

Limited access to power

"The lack of access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is a scandal which is trapping people in poverty," said Laura Taylor, head of advocacy at Christian Aid, in a statement. She points out that the UK government has an important role to play in supporting UK companies to be part of the renewable energy revolution, which could transform the lives of African people.

Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, Chukka Umunna, points out that the green economy presents huge opportunities for dynamic and innovative British businesses to export overseas and increase energy access in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa through renewable technology.”

Power is key to economic growth and competitiveness in Africa (and of course everywhere else in the world!). The continent boasts an abundance of clean energy resources and it therefore makes sense to harness its potential in order to solve the region’s electricity shortage that has left over half of the continent’s one billion people without access to power.

Questions have been raised about whether renewable energy might be too expensive for Africa given the abundance of cheap coal, but it is now clear that this has changed as the cost of renewable technology is steadily falling while the capital expenditure costs of coal-fired power stations are rising.

While renewable energy cannot solve Africa’s power shortage on its own, distributed power from renewables, such as solar photovoltaics can make a great contribution towards solving the energy shortage that currently plagues parts of the continent.