Africa’s Renewable Energy Potential

Renewable Energy World 2 October 2012.

With the right stimuli, delivered through a multi-pronged strategy, renewables will take off in sub-Saharan Africa.

Like blind men describing an elephant, African pundits talk about renewables in terms of individual perceptions, needs and inclinations, and often in ways that put the overall issue completely out of perspective.

For example, academics tell us about ample solar, wind, hydro and biomass resources that, properly harnessed, could change the energy picture in Africa. Environmentalists talk about deforestation, unsustainable use of charcoal in cities and the risks associated with biofuel production. Social entrepreneurs speak of replacing kerosene with pico-solar systems. Carbon traders highlight opportunities for wind parks on growing power grids. Community activists want programmes to widen energy access with hydro, solar, wind and co-generation electricity. Climate changers talk mitigation and adaptation strategies and politicians make sweeping statements about new investment programmes.

Though the pundits are each ‘right’ in their particular prescriptions, in the noise of the discussions we end up blind to the ‘big picture’. Yes, given the proper stimuli, renewables can and will take off in Sub-Saharan Africa. Appetite and resources are clearly there…