New Green ICT investments happening across Africa
Over the past decade, regions across the African continent have experienced rapid economic growth and improving social conditions.
In line with this, there has been a dramatic spike in energy usage, presenting a daunting question: can African nations find sustainable and, crucially, climate-friendly ways to meet their growing energy needs?
The African continent's varied landscapes, geology, and meteorological conditions offer something of a super-abundance of renewable energy resources. As a result, Africa presents an exciting chance to become a genuine leading partner in a global shift in how we view, use, and consume power from hydro, sun, wind, and others.
With just natural sources alone, each nation on the continent has the potential to meet its energy needs many times over. Presently, Africa is going through a period of economic growth: it is estimated that by 2050, the continent's population will nearly double, becoming home to at least 2 billion people.
As a recent report by IRENA - International Renewable Energy Agency - found, given the proper support and incentives, the 'continent could meet nearly a quarter of its energy needs from indigenous and clean renewable energy sources by 2030'.
'Sustainable development and use of the continent's massive biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind power have the potential to rapidly change Africa's current realities.'
A world crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic puts many things into perspective, not least the necessity of having sustainable and reliable sources of energy that are affordable. Simply put, if power sources fail, health facilities cease to function - This puts people living in areas where energy is unreliable at acute risk. This offers an opportunity for sustainable and renewable energy to fill the gaps.
Despite COVID-19 taking its toll on African economies, the World Bank projects as high as 2.4 per cent in the Sub-Saharan regions. So what runs alongside economic growth? An increase in demand for power and energy. Though the "Green Revolution" in Africa is happening slower than some hoped, there is a chance to support the new generation and economic and population growth with clean, renewable and affordable power. The next few years will be essential for the energy sectors, especially in terms of post-COVID recovery. Writing earlier this year, Salma Okonkwo signposts the energy sector and green tech in Africa as 'one of the attractive investment sectors in 2021'.
That Africa could become an actual vehicle for change not just regionally but globally if harnessed for its potential is not unnoticed by investors.
While it is good news that the resources are there, simply knowing about them does not make it a reality. This article will look at what is being done to push green, sustainable energy and technologies in Africa.
What new Green ICT investments are happening across the continent?
With the 2020 report from the International Energy Agency finding that renewables are on course to dominate the global electricity sector, what innovations in Green Tech are in development and operation in Africa?
In 2020 alone, over $200 million was invested in African green energy start-ups. Undoubtedly an impressive figure - and one that's only increasing - but is it growing fast enough? Despite the enormous sum, the funding to innovative green tech in Africa still is not significant enough to provide a viable alternative to the fossil fuel industry.
The population in Africa is booming, the economies and needs for energy are expanding, and green technology needs to keep up. With the suitable investment and funding of all the continents, Africa offers the most exciting chance for renewable energy: simply put, the renewable resources of sun, wind, water, and more mean the area is in a prime position for innovations in climate tech.
Thankfully there is a growing awareness of climate change and the renewable energy options available - this put political pressure on governmental bodies and leads to more funding, both from regional governments and private companies. Combined, we can see how these factors can instigate lasting change.
Of all the continents on earth, Africa gets the most sunshine, with areas like the massive Sahara Desert getting sun all year round. This presents an exciting opportunity with solar energy that's not going unnoticed. As a continent, Africa receives the world's highest and most reliable solar irradiance and is home to several massive solar energy projects.
Broadly speaking, off-grid solar projects and mini-grid projects are gathering momentum across the continent of Africa, unsurprisingly due to cost-effectiveness and their reach.
'Off-grid solar projects in Africa consistently have outraised their competitors in other countries, making Africa the leading global destination for off-grid solar investment.' Salma Okonkwo (Founder, Blue Power Energy)
While many solar projects are in operation, there are still countless potential sources for solar energy that remain untapped. However, perhaps not for much longer. With green tech in Africa gathering momentum, it is predicted that nearly half of power generation growth in the sub-Saharan parts of the continent will come from renewable energy sources by 2040.
In fact, the continent appears to be on the brink of what could be called a solar revolution. Not only do places across the country see it as a viable resource that's in keeping with the "Climate Revolution", but it is becoming clear that for many regions, Solar power could offer a pragmatic and perhaps singular solution for their energy blackouts.
As seen between 2010 and 2018, solar energy costs fell by a dramatic 77 per cent, becoming one of the cheapest energy sources per/W on offer.
'We recently saw Solar PV tariffs below $.04, making it the cheapest form of electricity generation and the logical choice for additional capacity,' Mr Daniell-Alexander Schroth (acting director for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the African Development Bank).
Today, the Africa Solar Industry Association has recorded 'almost 2GW of large-scale project announcements since the start of last month'.
Waves and Wind
Globally, wind power is showing potential. In 2020 alone, '93 GW of new wind capacity was added worldwide'. The coastline of the African continent is blessed with an abundance of wind power and wave power. Unlike solar power resources, wind farms are less uniformly distributed, with optimal locations matching the area's topography. Areas of particular interest for wind power include coastal locations and mountain ranges - as this article will later discuss, some of the most exciting current projects underway are in the windy valleys of Kenya in the west. The wind on the west coast could accommodate the growing demand for energy in the region.
Water and steam carry geothermal energy to the earth's surface - this can then be used as geothermal energy. Parts of eastern Africa present the substantial potential for geothermal energy, including the East African Rift, roughly 5,900 kilometres.
'This energy is coming from the Earth - and it is essentially limitless' Juliet Newson (director of the Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University).
Behind solar, Geothermal is 'the second most abundant source of energy in the world'.
As outlined by the International Geothermal Association, the geothermal potential along the Eastern Africa rift is >20,000 Mwe. In Kenya, geothermal power is a cost-effective energy source, with successful projects such as Olkaria taking a forward-looking role in generating power. Today geothermal power makes up 5 per cent of the electricity capacity in the country, with Olkaria generating nearly one-quarter of power in Kenya.
Another plus of geothermal power? Once sourced, the plants can quickly expand, and they require less land than other renewable sources.