by Wanjohi Kabukuru
MOMBASA, Kenya ( Associated Press) – From wind farms on the African coast to geothermal projects in the East African Rift Valley, a new UN climate report on Monday put the continent’s vast clean energy potential into the spotlight. If realized, these renewable energy projects could blunt the harshest global warming impacts, power the continent’s projected economic growth and lift millions out of poverty, the report said.
The report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change comes at a time when Africa’s renewable energy business is already booming. Countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa have taken the lead in adopting clean energy on a large scale.
Yet Africa has attracted just 2% – $60 billion – of the $2.8 trillion invested in renewable energy worldwide over the past two decades and has only 3% of the world’s current renewable energy capacity. The UN report said that limiting warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) or 2C (3.6F), in line with the 2016 Paris climate agreement, would involve even more energy system change.
That means more renewable energy initiatives, such as Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Power, launched in 2019 about 600 km (372 mi) northwest of the capital Nairobi and need to make up 18% of the country’s energy generation . Its CEO, Philippe Leferink, said that while such large projects can be replicated, it is logistically challenging.
“The wind conditions north of Kenya are unique to the continent. You would be hard-pressed to find another location in Africa with a similar wind regime,” Leferink said. “(This) however does not mean that there is no possibility for other wind projects in Africa; there certainly is. The African coastline in particular, around South Africa from Djibouti in the south and again in the north to Cameroon Till date, there is good wind potential and certainly the initiative in this regard is guaranteed.”
The project is already in good company, with off-grid solar power also contributing to the country’s energy production. In Nakuru County, about 167 km (104 miles) northwest of Nairobi, James Kariyuki signed up for M-Kopa Solar Power, a low-cost pay for off-grid solar power for his home.
“When I installed solar power in my home, I saved a lot by using kerosene for the lights and charcoal in my house,” Kariyuki said. “Hospital bills have come down for my family and now we have internet and watch international games in my home.”
Since 2012, M-KOPA has powered more than 225,000 homes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with off-grid solar power. Kenya has also been expanding its geothermal and bioenergy potential for several years.
According to report author and energy expert Yamina Sahab, this initiative is a firm step in the right direction.
“Renewable energy sources are certainly an important mitigation strategy for Africa, which provides its citizens with a decent standard of living by developing infrastructure and buildings that do not require carbon intensive solutions,” Saheb told the Associated Press. ” “The entire continent, including PV (photovoltaic) and thermal solar, can go solar and some countries can even go for wind.”
Solar energy initiatives such as the Noor Ouarzat Complex in Morocco, the Benban Solar Park in Egypt and the Redstone Solar Park in South Africa have spread across the continent. The four countries attracted 75% of all renewable energy investment flows to the region.
Africa has world-leading potential for even more solar energy initiatives, the report said, with solar photovoltaic capacity of up to 7900 GW. Plans are also underway to explore the potential of geothermal energy in the East African Rift Valley system, and nations around the continent such as Angola, Sudan and Zambia are investing in wind and hydropower.
The IPCC report said the transition to clean energy is also “economically attractive” under certain circumstances. The United Nations estimates that the continued exploitation of renewable energy in Africa will create more than 12 million new jobs. China remains the largest lender to Africa’s renewable energy investments, followed by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund.
Max Bankol Jarrett, an energy expert and former Africa Regional Manager, said: “This latest IPCC Working Group report on mitigation is a clear indicator that Africa needs to provide renewable energy available within the continent to fuel economic growth and build resilient infrastructure. opportunities should be exploited.” International Energy Agency. “Africa’s vast renewable energy sources should be a priority not only for the continent but also for world racing to meet its net zero ambition.”
53 African nations have already submitted their voluntary nationally determined contributions under the Paris climate agreement, which details energy plans and outlines targets to curb emissions. 40 of them have included renewable energy targets.
Despite being the lowest greenhouse gas emitter continent with the lowest adaptive potential, Africa suffers from some of the most severe impacts from climate change. Areas of the continent still lack electricity and cooking fuel: The International Energy Agency estimates that about 580 million people were without electricity in 2019, and the World Health Organization says about 906 million needed clean cooking. fuels and technologies. But providing universal access using non-renewable energy sources would increase global emissions, the report warned.
“Climate action is a key component in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals,” it said.
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