Energy Transition in Africa to 2100
Published 18 July 2021
by Mohammed Atif, Area Manager – Middle East and Africa, DNV
Africa is a big continent, and many countries are at different stages of development from economic and energy access perspectives. The key drivers in the region include commitments to the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), one of which is access to clean and affordable energy.
Within Africa, three major countries are noteworthy for their progress on economic development and their impressive achievements in renewable energy. These countries are Egypt, Morocco and South Africa, which are now the most vibrant markets for renewable energy in the whole of Africa. These countries are well on target to have a higher than 30% contribution of renewable energy in their power systems by 2030. Morocco is one of the few countries in the world on track to actually meet its Paris climate commitments.
However, the rest of Africa is more of a mixed story and in general has lower access to grid connected electricity and clean forms of cooking. There is an objective to increase electrification rates from 20-30% today to around 70-90% by 2030 in many countries. Yet numerous forecasts still expect that half a billion people in Africa might still not have access to grid connected and cleaner forms of energy by 2030 and therefore being far from meeting SDG 7.
One of the big opportunities to propel or bridge Africa to better and cleaner forms of energy are mini-grids. Looking at East Africa for example, the top five markets for affiliated off-grid solar systems in 2019 (by sales volume) were Kenya, India, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria. Sales expanded the most in Ethiopia (up 108% to 1.01 million units) and Kenya (up 55% to 1.97 million units). Growth in Kenya is attributed mainly to rising customer demand for solar home systems and to the country’s conducive sales environment, resulting from an adequate regulatory framework and from the impetus provided by the ongoing World Bank-funded Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP).
Source: Global Status Report 2020 REN21
Mini or micro grids are seen as a cost effective and practical way of facilitating basic services like lighting and refrigeration for homes, schools and hospitals. The technology enablers include solar PV and lithium-ion battery storage units.
Longer term, there are plans for cross border interconnections and trade to enable large scale renewable energy to be connected and available. It is important to ensure that anchor loads also develop in terms of economic development and growth, which in Africa will also be spurred by digital transformation.
Synergies between hydropower and variable renewable energy sources can help to make the overall electricity system more flexible, both nationally and regionally. Wind power offers strong synergies with hydropower across the region, while solar PV has emerged as a key complementary technology. In Angola, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zambia, for example, solar PV generation during the day is complemented by hydropower generation at night.
In DNV’s Energy Transition Outlook, we also expect a significant increase in natural gas production and usage as a transition fuel. It is important that this gas has the lowest GHG emission footprint by harnessing advanced technology at the outset in terms of carbon capture and minimizing methane release or flaring.
Source: DNV Energy Transition Outlook
With advancements in carbon capture and storage, as well as blue and green hydrogen, we also expect Africa to leapfrog the way in which it uses its natural gas resources as a transition fuel.
Mega cities and digital transformation
In an article by the World Economic Forum, the expected growth in cities is summarized as follows:
Source: By 2100 none of the world's biggest cities will be in China, the US or Europe | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)
This shows the sheer expansion in population and with-it consumption for the African continent with a focus on emerging mega cities. In order for this growth to be viable, sustainable energy and digital transformation for smart durable cities needs to be adopted from the outset to ensure manageable growth. The future of Africa will impact the future of the world in terms of global economic development, the environment and future climate change in the world.
Digital technologies, such as advanced planning algorithms, sensors, computing power, algorithms, etc, will allow optimization in terms of energy and water usage per unit of economic growth and also the carbon footprint of that energy use. This will be combined with the latest deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient design thinking. A digital economy will help Africa leapfrog the ‘dirtier’ industrialization progression that happened in Europe, America and China in the past.
Therefore, in the short-term mini-grids are a step in this journey because they leverage clean energy, harness digital control and enable Africans to use other digital technologies, such as data centres, computers, communications, software, etc, to help them build a digital economy early on transforming trade, transport, health and education. These technologies and learnings can then be leveraged for the future mega cities most of which will be in Africa in the coming century.
Area Manager – Middle East and Africa, DNV
DNV is the independent expert in risk management and assurance, operating in more than 100 countries. Through its broad experience and deep expertise DNV advances safety and sustainable performance, sets industry benchmarks, and inspires and invents solutions. Whether assessing a new ship design, optimizing the performance of a wind farm, analyzing sensor data from a gas pipeline or certifying a food company’s supply chain, DNV enables its customers and their stakeholders to make critical decisions with confidence. Driven by its purpose, to safeguard life, property, and the environment, DNV helps tackle the challenges and global transformations facing its customers and the world today and is a trusted voice for many of the world’s most successful and forward-thinking companies.
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