According to IRENA, the African continent receives an annual solar irradiation of 2,119 kilowatt hours per square metre (kWh/m2); with most countries in the North, West and Southern Africa receiving more than 2,100 kWh/m2 annually. Cumulatively, Africa has a solar PV technical generation potential of 7,900 GW; and this capacity has barely been scratched yet.
Over the past decade, solar energy has been the fastest growing source of renewable energy across the continent. Between 2011 and 2020, installed solar capacity across Africa grew at a compound annual growth rate of (CAGR) of 54%. This was 2.5x the growth rate of wind power at 22.5% CAGR, almost 4x the growth rate of geothermal at 14.7% CAGR and 17x the growth rate of hydropower at 3.2% CAGR. Total solar power installed capacity across the continent over the past decade was 10.4 GW (9.4 GW solar PV; 1 GW concentrated solar power). Most of the additional capacity (2.9 GW) was installed in 2018, with countries in the Southern and North Africa taking a lion’s share in the additions.
For the current decade (2020 – 2030) solar power is expected to contribute a bigger portion of new electricity generation installations across the continent. The demand for renewable energy in Africa is rising buoyed by the following key factors:
- Demographic development including the strong population growth and urbanization in the continent
- Economic growth as measured through growth in consumptive and productive activities
- Policy targets by individual governments to expand access to clean energy within their countries
- Other factors including a push for energy efficiency, climate change agenda, the need to minimize transmission and distribution loses as well as the push towards electrification of energy end use
A combination of the above factors will lead to varying annual electricity demand CAGRs between 2020 and 2030 across the different regions in Africa. Central Africa region will have the highest demand growth at 10.3% CAGR, followed by the East Africa region at 9% CAGR. West Africa region comes in third position at 7.7% CAGR, North Africa region follows at 5.1% CAGR while Southern Africa region will experience the slowest demand growth over this decade at 3.6% CAGR. The demand growth drivers for renewables will vary from one region to another based on how far they are from universal access which is a key policy driver in all countries.
At 24%, Central Africa region has the lowest electricity access rates among the five regions in Africa. To reach universal access, strategic collaborations and consolidated efforts from the public and private sector will be required in the remaining years to 2030. Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon are the leading target markets for solar power in Central Africa; although they also have large hydropower projects in progress.
East Africa has the highest number of unconnected households and therefore the demand growth for electricity will be driven by policy targets on rapid access expansion; as in the case of Rwanda. In terms of absolute increase in electricity demand over the current decade up to 2030, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Ethiopia present the largest growth potential for developers of solar power projects. In West Africa region, electricity demand is expected to grow by more than 250% by 2030; with Nigeria alone accounting for 25% of the additional demand. The driver for demand growth in West Africa is also the access expansion drive by governments across the region.
Five out of the six countries in the North Africa region are already at or near universal access of electricity; hence the driver for demand growth especially in the renewables will be economic growth and zero carbon targets. It is estimated that electricity demand will double in the North Africa region by 2030. In the Southern Africa region, the access expansion will be a key demand growth driver outside of South Africa itself which already has near universal access to electricity. By 2030, demand across the region is expected to increase by 55%.
Author: Jeremy Riro