Africa’s Energy Transition Faces Major Challenges, Opportunities

Policies and Partnerships Crucial for Africa's Energy Transition Success

by Adenike Adeodun

The path to a successful energy transition in Africa involves numerous challenges and considerations, as detailed by Kay Walsh, Founder and Managing Director of Nova Economics, during her presentation at Enlit Africa. Walsh highlighted that achieving net-zero emissions will require significant global renewable energy additions, amounting to 1,000GW, alongside a 95% reduction in both abated and unabated fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“This is not going to be easy to achieve,” Walsh remarked, underscoring the magnitude of the task ahead.

To evaluate the capability of African countries to pursue a sustainable clean energy transition, several critical factors must be considered:

  • Electricity access rate
  • Proportion of energy consumption
  • Dependence on fossil fuels in the energy mix
  • Electricity tariffs
  • Energy policy and regulation
  • Economic viability of renewable energy
  • Access to baseload energy (gas, nuclear, batteries)
  • Grid infrastructure
  • Ability to import energy

Among African countries, Kenya is deemed most prepared for a smooth energy transition, with a 77% electricity access rate and a 20.6% dependence on fossil fuels. Following Kenya are Ghana, Tunisia, and Egypt, which also show promise for relatively easier transitions due to their higher electricity access rates and lower dependencies on fossil fuels.

Conversely, South Sudan faces significant challenges, with an 8% electricity access rate and a 74.9% dependence on fossil fuels. Other countries expected to encounter difficult transitions include Angola, Benin, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, all of which struggle with low electricity access and high fossil fuel dependence.

During the panel discussion at Enlit Africa, industry experts shared insights on policies and regulations necessary to facilitate a smoother energy transition for all African countries. Abel Tella, Director General of the Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA), and Sabine Dall’Omo, Chief Executive Officer for Sub-Saharan Africa at Siemens, emphasized the importance of integrated and strengthened power pools. These power pools can enhance grid stability, leverage renewable energy potential, and provide baseload power through nuclear and gas.

Brian Mainza Sinkala, Principal Energy Officer at the Ministry of Energy for Zambia, highlighted the need for private-public partnerships in deploying renewable energy. These partnerships bring best practices, modern technology integration, and efficient infrastructure development.

Effective policy and regulatory frameworks are crucial for a successful energy transition. Sinkala suggested that governments should incentivize the private sector through financing mechanisms that mitigate risks, noting that “sovereign guarantees have not worked.”

Policies that incentivize low-income groups to adopt renewable energy solutions and frameworks that allow customers to sell excess power back to the grid are vital. These measures can drive the deployment of renewable energy and ensure broader participation in the transition.

Parks Tau, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs of South Africa, emphasized the critical role of local government and municipalities in driving the energy transition. Local governments have a constitutional responsibility to ensure electricity distribution, making them pivotal players in the transition process.

Tau also highlighted the need for cost-reflective tariffs to maintain the financial sustainability of municipalities. “Local government has a constitutional responsibility to ensure the distribution of electricity and therefore plays a pivotal role in the energy transition,” Tau stated.

The energy transition in Africa presents both challenges and opportunities. Countries like Kenya and Ghana are well-positioned to lead the way, while others like South Sudan will require substantial efforts to overcome their significant hurdles. Integrated regional efforts, robust policies, and effective private-public partnerships are essential components of a successful transition.

The insights shared at Enlit Africa provide a roadmap for African countries to navigate their energy transitions. By addressing logistical, financial, and regulatory challenges, and leveraging regional cooperation, Africa can achieve a sustainable and resilient energy future.

The energy transition across Africa requires coordinated efforts from governments, the private sector, and local communities. The path to net-zero emissions is complex, but with strategic planning, investment, and policy support, African countries can transition to cleaner energy sources. The experiences and strategies discussed at Enlit Africa offer valuable guidance for achieving these goals and ensuring a sustainable energy future for the continent.

As the global community continues to prioritize renewable energy and sustainability, Africa’s energy transition will play a crucial role in meeting international climate targets and improving the quality of life for millions of people across the continent.

Source: ESI Africa

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