“Renewable Energy” Spreading in Africa

The most radical results of new technologies are to be found in the field of energy: the use of fossil fuels will be limited.

Africa is skipping some entire phases that characterised development in the West due to the use of more advanced systems. The most spectacular example is that of telecommunications with such a wide diffusion of mobile phones that the landline stage is being bypassed. In 2017, 44% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa could, by using mobile phones, pay the rent for solar installations, sell agricultural products or receive medical advice.

In Nigeria in 2001, in a population of around 123 million inhabitants, there were 100,000 landline telephones. In that year, a telephone operator entered the mobile phone market with a forecast of a 15 million potential users. Today the country has 162 million mobile phones. However, the transition that may have the greatest consequences is taking place in the field of energy, allowing the use of fossil fuels to be strictly limited.

Today, we already find huts or entire villages the electrical grid has not reached being powered by renewable energy. We must bear in mind that around 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity. The World Bank’s plan Lighting Africa aims at bringing electricity to 250 million people before 2030. In reality, the reduction in the prices of the technology used for this may accelerate their diffusion. In the meantime, results are already to be seen.

The population served by off-grid solutions in Africa has grown from two million in 2011 to more than 53 million in 2016. This is achieved by the use of simple kits consisting of a solar panel with a battery and some LED bulbs. A smaller number of people, 5.4 million, have gained access to larger solar-powered systems capable of running other services. But the qualitative leap is seen in the village mini-grids that have started to spread using solar panels, wind turbines, mini-hydro generators and battery systems.

Furthermore, renewables provide clean energy input for national electricity grids. Various countries are moving in this direction installing wind-turbine farms and battery centres. In Morocco, for example, a country where, at the end of 2017, renewable energy amounted to 34% of total production, there is now a target of 52% by 2030.

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