In Africa, 600 million people live without electricity, with 25 million more without power; the pandemic and then the crisis having put an end to ten years of progress, notes the Africa Energy Outlook 2022 of the IEA.
“We had seen a lot of positive developments, in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda… but the trend is reversing. About 4% more Africans live today without electricity compared to 2019,” Fatih Birol told AFP. the director of the agency.
“And when I look to 2022, with high energy prices and the economic burden that means for African countries, I see little reason to be optimistic.”
Increasing energy efficiency and expanding power grids and renewable capacities are the foundations of the continent’s energy future, says the IEA.
It has 60% of the world’s solar resources, but only hosts 1% of photovoltaic installations, less than the Netherlands.
Renewables should, along with wind power, dams and geothermal energy, form 80% of installed electrical capacity by 2030, both for energy and climate objectives, underlines the IEA’s Sustainable Africa Scenario.
But for that, it will be necessary to “double the investments”, says Mr. Birol.
“The international financial institutions, particularly the multilateral development banks, must receive a strong mandate from the countries to make Africa an absolute priority (…) able to attract private capital”.
Today, “Africa receives only 7% of green energy funding provided by advanced economies to developing countries,” insists the economist.
However, “this subject can be solved by the end of this decade with an annual investment of 25 billion dollars, the amount necessary to build a new LNG terminal each year”, he says. “We read in the newspaper every day that one country is building an LNG terminal, another another another terminal… With the same amount, we could solve the energy problem in Africa, so that’s all totally within reach.”
– Promises –
More unexpected in the context of a general call for decarbonization, the IEA also underlines the potential role of gas, but only for transitional and national use.
“Africa has several identified natural gas fields, not yet exploited. If they were, it would make 90 billion m3 annually, to produce agricultural fertilizers, cement and drinking water from water of the sea”, so many energy-intensive industries, explains Fatih Birol.
“Africa represents less than 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If this gas were exploited, it would fall to less than 3.5%, when it is 20% of the human population”.
“For gas as for everything, we cannot put Africa in the same basket as the others”, continues the economist. “For example, urbanization: 70 million residential buildings are to be built there by 2030. That means cement and steel, and you can’t do it just with solar” at its current level.
On the other hand, the global transition to green energy holds promise.
After having largely suffered the era of fossil fuels – both in terms of their cost and their role in global warming – the continent could be among “the first beneficiaries” of this new chapter, with its solar potential and the industrial opportunities linked to the needs for metals and green hydrogen, underlines the IEA.
40% of the world’s reserves of strategic metals are found there, which will be essential for equipping electric cars or wind turbine rotors.
“And there are huge stocks still undiscovered,” adds the IEA director. “But all of this will require new geological studies, strong governments, and doing everything to minimize the social and environmental impacts” of mining activities.
As for hydrogen from renewable electricity, it will be highly sought after around the world to decarbonise industry and heavy transport.
However, by 2030, renewable hydrogen produced in Africa will be cheaper than that produced in Europe, shipping costs included, says Fatih Birol, who hopes that finally, “COP27 in Egypt (in November, editor’s note ) will put Africa’s energy progress at the heart of the debates”.