With a sixth of the world’s population, Africa generates a measly four percent of the world’s electricity, three-quarters of which is used by South Africa and northern Africa. According to World Bank statistics, more than 500 million Africans (almost two-thirds of the total population) have no access to “modern energy.” Hydropower accounts for around 45% of electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) while biomass (mostly firewood) constitutes about 56 percent of all energy use in sub-Saharan Africa. Large-scale use of forest biomass is accelerating deforestation, and the World Bank estimates that 45,000 square kilometers of forest were lost between 1990 and 2005 across all low-income countries in Africa.

Africa has huge renewable energy potential with some of the world’s largest concentration of alternative energy resources in the form of solar, wind, hydro, and energy. Overall, 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the top-33 countries worldwide with combined reserves of solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy far exceeding annual consumption. Most of the sub-Saharan countries receive solar radiation in the range of 6-8 kWh/m2/day, which counts among the highest amounts of solar radiation in the world. Until now, only a small fraction of Africa’s vast renewable energy potential has been tapped.  The renewable energy resources have the potential to cover the energy requirements of the entire continent.

Africa is home to seventeen of the top-20 biomass users in the world. Traditional biomass (predominantly fuelwood), accounts for 70-90% of primary energy supply in some SSA countries. 

Several African counties, such as South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Senegal, Madagascar, Rwanda and Mali have adopted national targets for renewable energy, and feed-in tariffs for renewable energy electricity have been introduced e.g. in South Africa and Kenya.   Countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania are developing wind farms.  Geothermal investments are increasing in the Rift Valley area of Eastern Africa.  The pipeline of investments in Africa in hydropower, wind farms, solar PV and concentrated solar thermal, geothermal power and biomass energy underlines the huge potential for a future expansion of renewable energy across the continent.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy and sustainable development. He is the Founder of EcoMENA, a Doha-based organization meant to promote sustainable development and create environmental awareness in MENA countries. Salman possesses Masters degree in Chemical Engineering from Aligarh Muslim University (Aligarh, India) and has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects, mainly in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy and solid waste management. Salman is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy technologies and waste management systems through his websites, blogs and articles. He has participated in various international conferences as session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is a prolific writer and has authored numerous articles in reputed journals, magazines and newsletters on renewable energy and environmental issues. He is based in India and can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@ecomena.org

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  1. [...] Renewable Energy in Africa (cleantechsolutions.wordpress.com) [...]

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