According to the International Renewable Energy Agency(IRENA) report 2012, about 1.3 billion people lack access to basic electricity services and one billion people are likely to remain without access to electricity in 2030 worldwide. Grid electrification is the most preferred electrification method; however global statistics indicate that this will not be sufficient to meet the global goal of universal electrification by 2030. It will necessitate an additional 60% generation to achieve universal electrification by 2030. This implies that it is likely that off grid technologies will become more important in the coming decade which will therefore necessitate changes in policies and implementation of electrification programs.
Africa’s population is expected to be about 2 billion by 2050 and more than 50% of this population is expected to be living in urban areas. Currently, six hundred and twenty million people still live without access to modern electricity services whereas about 730 million people use inefficient cooking systems which expose children and women to hazardous lung diseases. The small proportion of the population which has access to electricity still face the challenge of reliability of the energy systems, and high prices of energy.
Challenges in the African Context
The challenge for Africa is to develop a sustainable energy infrastructure for today and future generations. Africa is at a critical stage with great need to industrialize and this implies that the demand for energy will continually increase. This thus puts Africa in a trilemma in deciding which pathway to undertake in developing her energy systems.
Worse still, rapid economic growth and urbanization in Africa in the past few years has led to significant increase in energy demand. The need for energy for power, transport and other uses is expected to double by 2030 whereas that for electricity might even triple. Africa is an energy resource rich continent with various renewable resources and thus sound decisions and planning made today could determine Africa’s energy future.
Africa has a unique opportunity to leapfrog the traditional centralized energy model into the new modern sustainable renewable energy regime since there is not yet sufficient investment in infrastructure. Analysis of the energy situation has shown that renewables are going to become increasingly important in African energy mix contributing about 22% of Africa’s total final energy consumption(TFEC) by 2030 which indicates that the renewable share in the energy mix will more than quadruple. The technologies with highest deployment potential include modern biomass for cooking, hydropower, wind and solar power.
However, in order to keep pace with the rising energy needs, the agenda for policy makers and governments has to prioritize energy as an economic growth stimulant and also recognize the need to have access to cleaner energy. These are challenges as over 30 countries in Africa still continue to have electrical outages leading to significant losses in gross domestic product (GDP).
Deployment of renewables will provide secure and clean energy while increasing GDP growth, improving trade balances, and creating local value and employment. The actions to combat the impacts of climatic change are critical to avoid the consequences of the rapidly changing global temperature which can be far-reaching and devastating for humans and the environment unless action is taken to reduce the global carbon emissions.