Africa has long been the no go area for energy investment, and on average Africans receive the least amount of electricity per person in the world. But 2014 brought with it the winds of change; the construction on Obama’s $7 billion Power Africa project began and this forced the focus to shift onto Africa and its potential for massive development in the energy industry.
Why Has Africa Struggled in the Energy Industry?
There are many reasons why Africa has never emerged as a stronghold for energy in the past, and why 1 in 4 Africans still have no access to electricity today. However, there are two main reasons for this:
- Political instability and mismanagement
- Lack of infrastructure and investment
For the last 100 years Africa has been going through a transitional period that has encompassed civil wars and extreme corruption at times. Many of the continents power plants were irreparably damaged in civil wars, as is the case with Liberia whose power infrastructure was destroyed by rebels in 1990.
In other cases governments have mismanaged their funds, or corruption has resulted in the crumbling of entire energy industries. For example Zimbabwe has one of the continents biggest hydro electrical projects in Lake Kariba, and a vast coal mine located in Hwange; yet the country still suffers from severe power shortages. The infrastructure has been poorly maintained with much of the generated money finding its way into the pockets of cabinet ministers.
Africa is a hugely vast continent that is still developing, and they simply have not had the means to implement the infrastructure that is principal for the building of sustainable energy sectors.
The lack of investment in the industry has stemmed from the political instability that seems to regularly grip Africa’s countries. Flailing currencies and their unpredictable nature has previously proven a deterrent for most investors.
What Has Changed?
Mainly the change has come about from the urgency to explore more renewable and sustainable energy resources, and Africa has no shortage of potential for these projects.
There has also been a progressive step forward in the privatization of energy industries in Africa, with Nigeria leading the way. This ensures that the energy sectors have huge private investment and aren’t at a risk of mismanagement from the country’s government. This has provided a major reassurance for investors looking to go into Africa’s energy sector.
Current Projects Happening in Africa
Throughout the continent steps are being made to invest in and push for cleaner, more sustainable energy resources. And 2014 emerged as an incredibly successful year for the continent, as developing countries came up trumps in spending and investing in renewable energy resources. Kenya came in the top 10 list of the highest investors in sustainable energy in developing countries.
Some countries lead the way in particular types of renewable energy projects, as you will see outlined below.
Ethiopia’s Hydro Power Plan
Ethiopia has launched an ambitious plan to be the continents super power in Hydro Electrical energy. The highlight of this plan is the Green Renaissance Dam, which will be built on the Nile River, and is set to cost $4.1 Billion. Both local and foreign investors are funding the building of the dam, and it will be the biggest in Africa, generating a whopping 6,000 MW at full capacity. There has been some controversy surrounding the building of this dam, and concerns have been put forward by Egypt about the effect that the dam will have on the flow of the Nile as it passes through the country. There are two smaller dams that will be finished at around the same time in 2015 and overall these will generate over 8,000 MW at their peak.
Overall, Ethiopia plans to spend $12 billion in the attempt to harness the hydropower from their waterways, and this has the potential to generate almost 40,000 MW of power by 2035. This enterprising approach has opened the eyes of investors to the massive opportunities for renewable energy that lie in Africa.
Morocco Opens Biggest Wind Farm in Africa
The Tarfaya Wind farm in Morocco has officially been put into operation. The project was a joint collaboration between GDF Suez, its partner Nareva Holdings and the Tarfaya Energy Company. The farm itself encompasses 8, 900 hectares and is now Africa’s biggest wind farm.
The total cost of the project was 450 million Euros and it was financed by an alliance of three Moroccan banks. There are 131 turbines that are set to generate 2.3 MW each, and the power generated is set to reach 1.5 million households.
The Moroccan government has set out a 2,000 MW target for wind energy, and Tarfaya covers 15% of this. They plan to have 42% of all their electricity sustainably generated by 2020, and the country has engaged in a massive push for foreign investment into their energy sector, paving the way for other African countries to follow suit.
Jasper Solar Plant, South Africa
The Jasper Solar plant is Africa’s biggest solar power project and it encompasses a massive 325,000 solar modules. The power generated will reach over 80,000 households and should go some way in alleviating and addressing their recent power shortages.
The plant is expected to generate 180,000 MW annually and it will make up some of the 18 GW of sustainable energy that South Africa plans to generate by 2030. South Africa is the leading country in Africa’s commercial sector and by implementing this plan; they are setting a good example for their less developed neighbors to follow.
As you can see, the energy industry in Africa has taken a sudden leap in the right direction. It is hoped with all these new projects and investments that Africa will no longer be so behind the world in the energy sector, and that they will in fact become a model for the use of sustainable, renewable energy development in developing countries.