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10 fascinating facts about energy in Africa

Clean and sustainable energy is crucial for development. However, currently, average electricity grid access across Africa is a mere 20%. What’s more, a mere seven African countries have electrification rates that exceed 50%. As a result, there’s no better time to learn about the challenges and opportunities in enhancing access to energy in Africa, and how science and tech are enhancing the sector.

1) Currently, 60% of citizens in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to energy.

2) Today, Africa accounts for just under half of the unconnected worldwide. By 2030, two in every three people in the world lacking electricity will be African.

3) This has significant implications for the continent’s development. In fact, the World Bank estimates that the chronic shortage of power reduces Africa’s economic growth by about two percentage points every year.

4) Furthermore, commentators have noted that Africa requires an additional $43 million per year to finance existing energy needs.

5) However, the African continent has immense renewable energy resources. According to African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, it can source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,300 gigawatts of wind power, and 15GW of geothermal potential.

6) What’s more, Professor Mehran Moalem notes that the Saharan Desert in Africa is 3.6 million miles and is prime for solar power. This means that 1.2% of the Sahara desert is sufficient to cover all of the energy needs of the world in solar energy.

7) In addition, the US Energy Information Administration expects energy consumption in non-OECD countries to grow by 84% by 2035, compared to 14% in OECD countries. To address this increased demand, African countries must add renewable energy to their energy profiles.

8) Fortunately, innovators are harnessing science and tech to enhance access to clean and sustainable energy across the continent. For example, Morocco is developing the world’s largest solar power plant, Noor 1 in the Ourzazate. Once it is finished, the plant will provide 160 megawatts (MW) of the ultimate 580MW capacity, helping the country to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

9) In addition, South African company, Shakti Energy, has created the Nuru PowerCycle, which uses human pedal power to charge Nuru lights and mobile phones.

10) Talented energy entrepreneurs are on the rise. In fact, Seedstars and Enel have joined forces to create the Africa Energy Prize, which provides financial support for tech start-ups striving to tackle the continent’s energy challenges.

On 29th November, the PEI will hold a Spotlight Seminar on the Future of Renewable Energy in Africa at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, London. Email sarah@planetearthinstitute.org.uk to register your interest in attending this event.

Photo: Luca Mason

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