An important Power Switch19 November 2013


Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Africa’s wind and solar power potential have been much in the news since President Obama’s “Power Africa” speech on June 29th in Cape Town. Investment into renewable energies has always been rather limited on the continent, but this is now changing rapidly. One example is the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) recent approval of a €115m loan to help fund the construction of the 300 MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Project in Kenya. The project is being developed by a conglomerate of investors, while the government of Spain has agreed to lend Kenya $178m in order to fund the construction of a transmission line which will connect the project to the country’s national grid. All electricity will be sold to the Kenya Power and Lighting Company under a 20-year power-purchase agreement.

Strong economies are highly dependent on good energy supplies and in order to achieve global competitiveness, Africa’s economic activity (and thus electricity use) must increase exponentially. It is no surprise therefore that in recent years the continent has seen an increasing number of young entrepreneurs keen to try out their much needed innovation. Many of these concentrate heavily on Solar Energy since Photovoltaic (PV) production costs have fallen dramatically worldwide. According to the U.N., the African renewable energy sector was valued at $750 million in 2004. By the time Obama was making his speech, it had reached more than $5 billion. The latest projection is that by 2020 the value of the African renewable energy sector will reach more than $55 billion (U.N.). While Africa’s wind resources are concentrated in just a few areas, the continent’s solar resources are spread across all of the continent and, for obvious reasons, rank among the world’s most successful.

There are of course many other forms of energy that could contribute in filling Africa’s massive power gap.

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