Africa Set for Renewable Energy Boom

Investment in renewable power in Africa is set to grow from a total of US$3.6-billion in 2010 to $57-billion by 2020, accompanied by huge foreign direct investment in energy infrastructure.

This is one of the findings of Frost & Sullivan’s study “Mega Trends in Africa: A bright vision for the growing continent”, which is due to be released at an African growth, innovation and leadership conference in Cape Town on 25 August.

“Although Africa is endowed with fossil and renewable energy resources, which could more than adequately cover its energy needs, it remains the most poorly electrified continent in the world,” Frost & Sullivan said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The proportion of people without electricity in Africa is higher than anywhere else on the planet, with as little as 5% of the population having direct access to electricity in some countries.

Wind, solar, geothermal

“This significant challenge does, however, have a massive potential upside. The need to provide electrification to remote communities is one of the key drivers of renewable energy development on the continent.”

Frost & Sullivan analyst Ross Bruton said that investment in renewable power in Africa, which totalled a mere $3.6-billion by 2010, “is expected to grow to $57.72-billion by 2020.

“The key growth sectors will be wind power, solar power, geothermal power and foreign direct investment (FDI) into energy and power infrastructure.”

According to the consultancy, the development of Africa’s renewable energy sector will lead to greater diversification of the continent’s energy mix, decreased dependency on any one feedstock, and greater security of supply.

New technologies

New investments in the continent’s electricity infrastructure are also likely to incorporate new, “smart” technologies and standards, which will see information and communication technology (ICT) development taking place alongside electrification.

“Smart electricity development in Africa will be driven through grid incorporation of renewable power, and technological leapfrogging through investments into greenfield transmission and distribution infrastructure projects,” Bruton said.

“Smart grids are, however, only expected to play a significant role in key high-growth African economies.”

Over the next 10 years, Frost & Sullivan predicts, African renewable energy initiatives will be dominated by wind power projects, such as the Ashegoda Wind Farm in Ethiopia and Tanzania’s Singida Wind Farm.

Solar power will also show good growth, “although this will most likely be through South Africa’s Upington solar project and renewed interest in Desertec in North Africa.”