ENERGY TRANSFORMATION IN AFRICA Since 2000, Africa has been experiencing rapid economic growth and improving social conditions. Average real gross domestic product reached 3.6% in 2017 and is projected to rise to around 4% in 2018 and in 2019 (African Development Bank, 2018). Six African economies are expected to feature among the top ten fastest growing economies in 2018 (World Bank, 2018). Given the continent’s large and growing population, energy demand is expected is nearly double by 2040. Endowed with substantial renewable energy resources, Africa is in a position to adopt innovative, sustainable technologies and to play a leading role in global action to shape a sustainable energy future. Supply unreliability is a concern holding back economic development, with most countries facing frequent blackouts and often relying on expensive and polluting solutions. Clean, indigenous and affordable renewable energy solutions offer the continent the chance to achieve its economic, social, environmental and climate objectives. Sustainable development and use of the continent’s massive biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind power have the potential to rapidly change Africa’s current realities. Renewables provide the chance to leapfrog to a sustainable, prosperous future for all. Increasing access to reliable, affordable and clean energy resources is a key priority, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Around 600 million people in Africa still have no access to power, representing 48% of the continent’s population of nearly 1.2 billion (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development International Energy Agency, 2017).
INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION TO ACCELERATE AFRICA’S ADOPTION OF RENEWABLES IRENA’s engagement with Africa on renewables dates back to the Agency’s formation nearly a decade ago. In July 2011, IRENA convened a high-level consultative forum in which African nations along with development partners formulated renewable energy priorities. A Ministerial Communiqué entitled “Renewable Energy for Accelerating Africa’s Development” highlighted Africa’s significant potential for renewable energy and addressed the emerging issues related to climate change
mitigation and adaptation. To utilise this potential, it underlined the importance of IRENA’s strategic
presence in Africa and its co-operation with African partners. Over the years, this has been pursued
through the development of the Clean Energy Corridors, a key component of IRENA’s engagement
and its effort to promote regional market integration.
Regional collaboration with North and Central Africa is being strengthened. The Pan-Arab Clean
Energy (PACE) initiative provides a regional action plan to scale up renewables in power systems
across the Arab region. Its implementation is complemented by IRENA’s country-level support, such
as through the recent launch of the Egypt Renewable Energy Outlook. The objective is to strengthen
an investment framework that will enable cost-effective provision of up to a quarter of Egypt’s total
final energy supply from renewables in 2030. IRENA also collaborates with the Economic Community
of Central African States (ECCAS), supporting the development of a renewable energy roadmap for
the sub-region. The roadmap provides a set of specific actions to strengthen enabling policies and
regulatory, institutional and financial structures for renewable energy deployment at regional and
In March 2017, the African Union recommended the integration of the Clean Energy Corridors into
national renewable energy and climate change agendas. The PACE initiative was adopted by the
League of Arab States, while the Central Africa roadmap, which was technically validated in November
2018, is set to receive the endorsement of Central African Heads of State. IRENA has also pursued
strategic, results-oriented partnerships with various African organisations and development partners
active in the field of renewables, aiming to leverage existing efforts, avoid duplication and maximise
Local capabilities enhanced across the renewable energy value chain. Capacity building is a central priority in African countries. Over the years, IRENA has provided numerous services targeting policy makers as well as other energy stakeholders who have to play a part in accelerating renewables deployment. IRENA pays particular attention to the areas where it can add most value. For example, in recognition of the essential role of reliable data, energy statisticians across Africa have been trained in the collection, processing and dissemination of renewable energy data as well as the construction of national renewable energy balances. Regional activities are adjusted to specific needs while aiming to capitalise on experiences and best practice for the benefit of the Agency’s wider membership. In the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, IRENA first organised a Renewable Energy Training Week in November 2015. This training helped regional and national regulatory authorities assess their existing planning processes vis-à-vis global best practices for empowering regulatory roles to provide greater investment certainty and ensure timely project delivery. The recent IRENA report on renewable energy auctions in sub-Saharan Africa summarised the implementation practices in auction design and impacts from the recent processes undertaken in South Africa, Uganda and Zambia to support peer-to-peer learning and exchange of experiences on the continent.
LEVERAGING PARTNERSHIPS FOR IMPACT IRENA pursues strategic, results-oriented partnerships with various African organisations and development partners active in the field of renewables. These aim to leverage existing efforts and resources but also to establish regional dialogues, support the creation of sufficient enabling frameworks, reinforce capacities with a view to learning from best practices globally, and release renewable energy potential in the optimal manner, taking local conditions into account. In implementing its mandate in Africa, IRENA has collaborated extensively with regional partners. These have included the Africa Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), the ECOWAS Regional Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERERA), the League of Arab States (LAS), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE, covering the Arab region), the Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa (RERA), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE), the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the West African Power Pool (WAPP).
OUTLOOK FOR IRENA’S ENGAGEMENT ACROSS AFRICA The African continent has embarked on a development path that will lead to a 100% increase in its energy demand by 2030. Since 2015 this is driven by its increasing population and growing economy. Given the continent’s abundant resources, renewable energy has a crucial role to play to supply this exponential growth in energy demand and offer modern services to the population with no access to energy today. IRENA will continue facilitating and supporting this process through its well-established regional and country work in Africa, by further strengthening enabling frameworks to promote investments and by cultivating the associated knowledge and technical capabilities. IRENA’s involvement in the region is already considered a critical factor in the acceleration of Africa’s transition to more reliable, affordable and sustainable energy systems thanks to the tangible impact of its work. IRENA will enhance co-operation and co-ordination with the AREI and PIDA, and continue aligning its work with other relevant continental initiatives and programmes to scale up renewables uptake in the continent’s long-term energy plans. Technical advice and capacity building will be deepened and extended, in order to support the utilisation of the region’s renewable energy potential to meet and go beyond current targets. This can be achieved through creating the conditions for cross-border renewable electricity trade, and by conducting refined resource assessments that prioritise the viability of project-specific areas and investment potential. A broader portfolio of such technical assistance will also address pressing and emerging issues relating to energy statistics, policy mechanisms and project facilitation.
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