The developing nations resting on the continent of Africa have become in recent years popular destinations for applying clean technologies, including renewable energy. Because of the excessive cost associated with transporting electricity from power plants, small-scale geothermal, wind, and solar devices have provided much energy to many rural and urban populations. Using renewable energy resource technologies in Africa shows a potential to relieve numerous problems many African nations face. Currently, one-third of the entire African population does not have access to electricity, and aside from major African countries, such as Egypt and South Africa, electricity is often only provided to roughly 20 percent of the population. Because energy is vital to reduce poverty and stem economic growth, it is essential that Africa look into clean technologies.
1 ) African Renewable Energy Alliance (AREA). The African Renewable Energy Alliance, or AREA, is a number of utility companies, industries, policy makers, and civil society members who have all come together to boost the research, development, and use of renewable energy throughout Africa. According to Abel Didier Tella, the Secretary General of union of African utilities UPDEA, “True exchange of information on new technologies as well as workable funding mechanisms for renewable energy is exactly what is needed. By creating the alliance we expect to create an on-going exchange and to speed up renewable energy production in Africa.” Part of the declaration of AREA states, “If we fail to immediately take decisions on renewable energy production and distribution in grid connected areas as well as in off grid regions, we undermine the right of millions of African citizens to develop a better life in the future.”
2 ) General Electric (GE) Investing into East Africa. General Electric, or GE, has created a strategy to assist East Africa in obtaining renewable sources of energy. It has done a lot of investment in Kenya especially as they believe as it can be the African hub for renewable energy technologies. It has large potential for geothermal energy, as well as a strong wind corridor and high solar rations. Kenya also has a large agrarian region, making it suitable for biowaste being turned into fuel. As well, in Algiers, GE is setting up desalinization plants, and in inland cities, GE is looking into the reuse and recycling of various water resources.
3 ) Increasing Renewable Energy Investment into Africa. In 2010, for example, a number of African policy makers and business leaders met in Berlin, Germany to look at renewable energy opportunities in an effort to increase infrastructural development and employment. Emmanuel Emielu, a Chief Executive from one of these businesses stated, “We must invest in developing the entrepreneurial and skills base needed to achieve a massive diffusion of renewable energy technology…across Africa.” Emielu stressed the need of investment into Africa’s growing cleantech desires as it will create much needed employment opportunities and will prevent Africa from becoming an “importer renewable energy business men,” turning it into a dumping ground.
4 ) African Wind Energy Association. Even though a majority of Africa, which lies around the equatorial belt, has a decreased wind resource that other countries. And though, in the past, this has been a barrier, many now believe that there is potential in Africa for large scale wind development. The African Wind Energy Association was created “in order to encourage manufacturers, developer, governments, renewable energy owners, and individuals to promote and support wind energy development on the African continent…[it] aims to become an influential umbrella organization representing the wind energy sector in Africa and this assisting interaction and cooperation between all energy players.”
5 ) Geothermal Potential in Kenya. Because of its location in the Rift Valley, Kenya has potential using geothermal resources. Currently there are two power stations and one power plant producing ample megawatts of energy. It houses Africa’s largest geothermal power station.
6 ) Africa Carbon Forum. The Africa Carbon Forum is held every year with numerous World Bank specialists and business leaders who get together to create strategies for “clean development mechanism” projects for the African continent, including greenhouse gas emissions-reducing initiatives. Because Africa benefits the least out of all continents through the clean development mechanism market and has the least investments, the forum outlines the potential within the African continent to house renewable energy sources. For example, a European Commission researcher stated that just 0.3 percent of sunlight that hits the Sahara desert could supply Europe will all its current energy needs.
7 ) African Renewable Energy Technology Platform. The African Renewable Energy Technology Platform is part of the European Union Energy Initiative, an organization that focuses on energy and poverty that “raise[s] political awareness among high level decision maters of the important role energy can play in poverty reduction [and clarifies] the need for energy services for poverty reduction and sustainable development.” This platform has the aim of “[contributing] to [the understanding of] the potential for renewable energy options in Africa for increased access to electrification in rural areas.”
8 ) Growing Renewable Energy Market. As of the end of 2010, a number of wind projects were developed in North Africa and complete. There has also been an increase in the off-grid solar power market throughout Sub-Saharan Africa that is expected to advance at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of ten percent between 2009 and 2015. “Many developmental agencies consider small-scale renewable energy projects as the most feasible solution for accelerated rural electrification and therefore are increasingly investing in [Africa in] medium-sized projects, especially wind and solar,” said Energy and Power Systems Programme Manager of Frost and Sullivan Cornelis van der Waal.
9 ) Joint Action Between EU and Africa. Through the Africa-EU Energy Partnership the Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme was developed to assist in helping Africa meet its 2020 renewable energy targets and bringing relevant renewable energy technologies to the African market. The overreaching goal is “to bring access to modern and sustainable energy services to at least an additional 100 million Africans by 2020.”
10 ) Decreasing Overall Reliance on Fossil Fuels. For a poor, underdeveloped continent that relies heavily on the import of fossil fuels, it has become ever more important to increase renewable energy technologies. It will not only provide a cheaper, alternative source of energy, but it will provide more energy to more locations throughout the continent and reduce levels of poverty.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org