Egypt leads Africa's shift to green energy

Ouarzazate Power plant Morocco:
The tallest 
power tower in the world

Africa is ramping up its war against energy poverty, we can report. It has deployed some 10.5 GW of wind and solar power in less than 20 years. Much more is in the Pipeline and by 2030, the continent will have installed at least 100GW of green energy. Africa is easily the powerhouse in renewables. According to data from the African Development Bank, the continent has the potential to generate 10 Terra Watts(TW) from solar energy, 350 Gigawatts from hydro, 110 Gigawatts from Wind and 15 Gigawatts from Geothermal sources.

Already some 10.5 GW of both Solar and Wind power, have been installed in the five leading energy markets. The five are; South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  Available data shows that Egypt is the leader with 3.5 GW of wind power and 1.5 GW of Solar in place. Morocco is second with 1.2 GW of wind power and 700MW of solar. However, new plants launched during 2020 are expected to have boosted solar capacity to 2GW. South Africa, which boasts 1.2 GW of wind power expects it solar capacity to leap to 2.9 GW by the end of this year.  In Egypt, a recent government report shows, 1430 MW of wind power is under construction.

In line with its potential, Africa is home to the largest Concentrated Solar Power plant in the world, the 580 MW Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex in Morocco. Set on 3000 hectares of desert land, the plant can store solar energy for 10 hours meaning it continues generating power for 10 hours after sunset. Morocco has upgraded its ambitions and gunning for 2.1 GW of solar power by 2020 at a cost of US$9 billion.

Ethiopia and Kenya are not quite big on Wind and Solar Power. In fact, the installed capacity of wind for both countries is 320 MW each. Kenya has some 54 MW of PV solar while Ethiopia is still planning some 100 MW. However, Kenya has been big on geothermal power where she has installed some 1.1 GW making her the world’s fifth geothermal powerhouse. She is the leader in Africa in geothermal energy generation.  Ethiopia, which has significant hydro sources, is quite big here. She has 4.3 GW of hydro in place and a further 6.6 GW under construction.

However, the African Development Bank is ramping up renewables development in Africa. Buoyed by the success of Noor Ouarzazate in Morocco which, the Bank largely funded, it is now rolling out Solar power generation in the Sahel Region. The project, christened Desert to power (D2P), will cover 11 countries in the Sahel region. The S20 billion project which will generate 10GW by 2025, will turn the Sahel into one of the largest solar-power-generating areas in the world.  It will provide 250 million people with power. Ninety Million of these will be first-time electricity grid customers.

A Geothermal power plant

Across Africa, AfDB plans to double power generation in Africa to 330 GW in 2025 from 168GW in 2016. Green energy, owing to its low cost and quick deployment, will form the bulk of this quantity. Green energy sources will replace Hydro as the leading source of power in Africa. In a previous post, this blog pointed out that the great cause of energy poverty in Africa is the large capital outlay required for hydro dam construction and the long gestation period before it generates a single megawatt. The other drawback was government policy which made power generation the preserve of government-owned power utilities. See

 However, the growth in demand for electricity coupled with cheap green energy technologies and climate concerns have changed all that. There is a great realization that energy poverty cannot be dealt with by the government alone. Governments have thus relaxed their hold on power generation, allowing the private sector, and financiers have shifted focus from fossils to green energy.  With these drawbacks removed, power generation has ramped up as new technologies are deployed. New technologies and new business models are now at the frontline of the war against energy poverty.

In Morocco, the 580MW Ouarzazate complex is operated on a BOOT model. This model has also resulted in the rapid deployment of green energy technologies in Egypt and South Africa. In Kenya. The largest Wind power project, the Lake Turkana wind power, is owned by the private sector. However, geothermal generation is largely in the hands of the government although the private sector also lends a hand.

The war against energy poverty is also a war against economic and health poverty. Insufficient power supply, experts say, shaves off 2-4 percent off GDP in Africa, adding that a dollar spent on energy generation creates an additional $15 in economic benefits.

On health experts say, an estimated 660,000 people die each year due to wood fuel pollution. Global warming is also increasing Africa’s poverty. Although Africa contributes no more than 3 percent of the world’s industrial pollution, it could end up paying more in terms of the negative effects of climate change. “In the near future, climate change will contribute to decreases in food production, floods and inundation of its coastal zones and deltas, the spread of waterborne diseases and risk of malaria, and changes in natural ecosystems and loss of biodiversity,” says a UN in a Brief to the climate change meeting in Nairobi in 2017.

 These reasons underscore the need and urgency for developing cheap renewable sources of energy in Africa and the world. The Ouarzazate complex, for instance, offsets 773,000t of CO2 emissions. Lake Turkana Wind Power in Kenya, the largest wind farm in Africa, offsets 736,615 tons of CO2 emissions a year, while also in Kenya, KenGen, the power generation utility offsets 1,500,000tCO2 emissions a year

Leading polluters in the world, China, the US and the European Union are in a race to retire polluting energy generators such as Nuclear, coal, and diesel by 2050. These could become a market for Africa’s energy exports in the near future. Morocco is already eyeing exports to Europe and the Middle East. If green energy exports become a reality, then this would be the unforeseen benefit of investing in green energy in Africa.

Not that such exports were not mooted before, German had mooted  the Desertec project, which planned  to source 15% of Europe’s energy from North African desert solar by 2050.  It collapsed in 2013 but, It was a pathfinder.



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