Sub-Saharan Africa will add more renewable energy projects in 2014 than it has in the last 14 years, according to research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
As Bloomberg reports, Africa is expected to add about 1.8 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, a category which includes geothermal, wind, and solar but excludes major hydroelectric power plants. According to the statement from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the rise in renewable energy in Africa has occurred due to the fact that there’s a growing need for power in Africa and the fact that wind and solar energy costs have dropped significantly in recent years. Due to this price drop, renewable energy can serve as a less expensive alternative to things like diesel, coal, or gas-powered plants.
Compared to the rest of the world, 1.8 gigawatts of energy is small — China, for instance, installed about 11.3 gigawatts of solar alone in 2013. But it’s more renewable energy capacity than Africa added between 2000 and 2013, and some countries in Africa are forecast to keep up the momentum on renewables. Between 2014 and 2016, South Africa is expected to install 3.9 gigawatts of renewable energy — mostly wind and solar — and Kenya is expected to install 1.4, according to Bloomberg.
“What is different now is the breadth of activity, with wind, solar and geothermal exciting interest in many different countries, and the potential for further growth,” Victoria Cuming, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in a statement.
Africa has been singled out in the past for its potential to increase its share of renewable energy. In 2008, a World Bank report noted Sub-Saharan Africa’s “huge technical potential for clean energy projects,” and this year, the International Renewable Energy Agency said that, if “substantial flows” of investments are directed toward Africa, the continent’s renewable energy capacity could quadruple to about 120 gigawatts by 2030. Also this year, information company IHS ranked South Africa as the “world’s most attractive emerging country for solar energy,” due to South Africa’s goal of installing 8.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2030 and its success so far in securing funds toward that goal.
Africa has struggled for years to provide electricity to its population of more than 1 billion. As of 2011, the total installed generation capacity of Sub-Saharan Africa was 68 gigawatts — about the same as Spain’s, a country dwarfed by Africa in size.
This need for electricity has prompted investment from other countries — in 2013, President Obama announced the Power Africa plan, which aims to double electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa and includes a $7 billion pledge from the United States. The plan aims to bring “clean, efficient electricity generation capacity” to Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania, and part of the plan is focused directly on renewable energy.
OPIC and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency pledged up to $20 million in grants to develop renewable energy projects. China, too, has pledged substantial amounts of money to Africa for use in the power sector, renewing a loan offer last year of $20 to “help African countries turn resource endowment into development strength.”