Green energy becoming increasingly important in powering Africa

With the COP26 summit coming up, it is no doubt that countries across the planet have begun to see the benefits of green energy, the UK has decided to cut its emissions by 78% by 2035, under Joe Biden’s presidency, America is planning on introducing a green jobs infrastructure package worth $2 trillion, at the same time, many more nations, especially in Europe, which have agreed to the Paris Agreement are also looking towards cutting their emissions. And increasing the amount of energy we source from renewable sources has its benefits, for example, 36,000 people die of poor air quality in the UK every year, meaning that if air quality was to improve due to lower air pollution, fewer individuals would see respiratory issues, thus enabling the NHS, an already stretched health-service with 5 million awaiting treatment, to focus its efforts on treating those in intensive care. Consequently, it’s no surprise that this green technology, which has been improved upon by developed economies is spreading to Africa.

However, Africa, which is a much more underdeveloped continent compared to the rest of the world does have challenges and hurdles to cross before it can meet its green energy targets of having “half of the new energy installed across Africa being renewable energy by 2050.”

Firms ran by individuals such as Olusola Lawson, have been responsible for investing more than half a billion dollars in infrastructure for green energy across the continent, the BBC reports.

Nevertheless, despite their efforts, there is still great demand to ensure that Africa becomes connected as for most people across the continent, it is a great challenge to access any energy at all. The BBC estimates that 600 million people in Africa don’t have access to energy. This severely inhibits an individuals ability to perform basic tasks, but, it also prevents them from being productive and entrepreneurial as a scarce supply of energy means individuals find it harder to start and run businesses as the majority of operations and logistics are done online.

This is a problem not only for individuals, but even large businesses and investors have to deal with blackouts in more developed regions such as South Africa and Nigeria, yet, the government, innovators, and entrepreneurs are working to fix this problem. For example, in Ghana, the nations Ministry of power states that 80% of the population can access electricity, however, it is difficult to connect those in more remote areas.

For this reason, innovators and entrepreneurs have developed new technology known as a microgrid, which, in essence, is the same as a normal energy grid just on a much smaller scale. These microgrids are used to power smaller, more rural communities as it is reportedly cheaper to connect these individuals using their own microgrid rather than extending an already existing national grid to these regions. This allows local communities to have their own independent energy supplies, thus supplying them with low-cost, green energy which is mainly provided by solar and wind power.

However, despite these developments, the power supplies in Africa are still not stable. The BBC reports that 15 million people live in Lagos, Nigeria, yet, despite this being a massive community, the energy supply within the region is not stable or secure. For this reason, many Nigerians have found their own methods of producing electricity without having to rely on the grid by using small petrol and diesel generators. It is reported that £16 billion are spent every year by Nigerians for paying for generators to power their businesses and homes. Although this ensures that individuals have power, this is still £16 billion which Nigerians could be spending on other goods and services which they can buy to improve their living standards. Therefore, the construction of a stable power grid is necessary, and both the government and private firms are looking into this venture. With there being an 80% and 85% reduction in solar and battery prices over the last decade, African governments and firms are optimistic about how cost-effective green technology can be as a primary way of generating energy. Olusola Lawson states that by the end of this decade, a possible 65 million jobs may be created as a result of these low carbon industries within Africa as firms offering training in these specialised areas are propping up everywhere across the continent, thus if these training schemes are successful, green energy could be Africa’s magic bullet in solving the regions skill gap and high unemployment rates.


Written by Hubert Kucharski


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