Sunday, July 5, 2009

Africa – High wind energy potential not used enough

According to many energy experts Africa has huge energy potential but very few African countries are really using wind energy. The three countries that are using wind energy the most are Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia but even these countries have been slow to push for more investments in wind energy sector.

These three countries supply around 95 percent of the 563 megawatts of total installed capacity on the black continent. Wind energy sector has already started paying up mostly because of demand from Europe, where countries are under pressure to reduce CO2 emissions so they turn to different renewable energy sectors.

South Africa could soon be joining these three North-African countries as the country's new energy minister Dipuo Peters said how South Africa wants independent power producers to add 400 MW from wind to the grid within the next three years.

Egypt, on the other hand has set a target for wind to make up 12 percent of its total energy by 2020, with wind farms adding 7,200 MW to the grid.

Wind energy could also become important energy source for eastern and western Africa, especially after serious droughts raised doubts about the reliability of hydro sources the regions currently largely depend on. Kenya's Lake Turkana Wind Power already announced how it plans to produce 300 MW of electricity by 2012 from wind power in the north of the country.

These plans, if they fulfill will only use small share of Africa's total wind energy potential. This is because African countries have based their economies on coal which means that countries should reform their energy sectors and upgrade transmission and distribution networks to better wind power use. This will of course be hard to do, especially given lack of political will, and most of all available funds, in many African countries.

But still, countries like Egypt are showing that renewable energy policy definitely has its advantages, and that African countries should set more ambitious targets to better exploit of not only wind energy but other renewable energy sectors too. This example should be followed in other African countries, especially in Africa's richest country South Africa that according to Nano Energy, an energy consultancy has wind energy potential of at least 60,000 MW but is not doing enough to use it because of fossil fuels dominance, and lack of political will.

Funds for using wind energy sector shouldn't be really a big problem, because many EU countries are offering loans with favorable interest payments for investments to renewable energy sector. Start-up capital can be easily found; all what countries must show is political will on more emphasis to renewable energy sector.

Wind energy isn't only renewable energy source that Africa can build upon, Africa also gets vast amounts of sunlight throughout the whole year, and so solar energy is another option to consider. With proper politics and wise investments Africa could soon become very important source of renewable energy, capable to not only supply its energy needs, but also to satisfy large share of EU energy demand.

1 comment:

Roger from Solar Power Facts said...

I reckon that African nations, particularly those with limited infrastructure, have great potential to build their economies on clean energy. That's assuming other countries are willing to invest there, and given the current political and military turmoil there, that is unlikely.