Op-Ed: Africa is on the cusp of a wind energy revolution, it’s time to grasp it

There is no shortage of quality wind projects coming to market in Africa right now, and the will, capital and technology are in place to create a wave of wind project development across the continent.

However, amidst all the talk of renewable energy in Africa, not one utility scale wind project reached financial close in 2016. This may come as a surprise to many in the industry given how prominently renewables have factored into recent national government plans, as well as in the plans and projections of transnational organisations on the continent.

To provide some context, IRENA’s ‘Renewable Scenario for Africa’ predicts that the share of renewables in Africa will increase from 17% in 2009 to 50% in 2030, and nearly 75% by 2050. Total installed renewable capacity would grow from 28 GW in 2010 to around 800 GW by 2050, with solar photovoltaic accounting for 245 GW, and wind at 242 GW.

So what is the hold up?

The main obstacles to renewable energy projects being built in a timely manner in Africa today, have been governance and politics, and in particular an excess in bureaucracy and a lack of technical capacity in key government departments.

However, there are bright spots. Kenya’s flagship Lake Turkana wind farm – the largest in Africa is set to be fully operational later this year with investment from global tech giant Google and others. There is also strong momentum in countries like Egypt and Morocco who are second and third behind South Africa in terms of installed wind capacity.

What is driving change?

There is growing consensus among the investor community and society at large that the ‘tipping point’ from fossil fuels to renewable energy has been reached. For Africa in particular, the stakes are high. The ‘renewable energy revolution’, provides Africa with a one off opportunity to leapfrog fossil fuels and the 20th century model of energy development and move towards a clean, efficient system based on 21st century technology the same way Africans skipped ahead to mobile phones over fixed telephony – and embark on a different industrial development path.

The political will is there. It seems one government after another have been setting ambitious clean energy targets in an initiative to transform their energy mix in favour of a more sustainable future. East Africa is a good example beginning with Uganda’s 61% renewable goal by 2017, followed by Kenya’s 42% by 2033 and Tanzania’s 70% by 2026. Not to be outdone, Ethiopia was among the most daring signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change, committing to cut carbon emissions by 64% by 2030.

The most powerful factor influencing policymakers is that renewables and wind in particular make solid financial sense. The costs of developing solar in Africa fell 50% from 2010 to 2014 and continue to fall, but the cost of wind on the continent is on a very interesting trajectory as the recent tender in Egypt resulted in bids as low as USD 0.041/kWh, a new record for Africa. We have seen the cost of offshore and onshore wind drop dramatically where scale has been reached in places like Europe, China and the USA, demonstrating a way for Africa to follow suit.

Solar paves the way for Wind?

The barriers to entry for utility scale wind projects, are higher than with solar, but the potential of wind is not to be underestimated, especially where it can complement solar power. Recent studies, namely in India and Brazil, revealed how wind and solar projects can complement each other by minimising the variability of the power output and easing pressure on the grid.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has released a draft national Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy targeting 10GW by 2022. In a similar move, Brazil’s Senate Committee for Environment has approved a bill that allows hybrid renewable energy projects to take part in the country’s energy auctions.

Using similar logic, certain African countries that initially welcomed solar projects on their home soil are now turning to wind power, as the technology gains ground and its symbiotic relationship with solar becomes clearer.

Two telling yet very different examples come to mind, Egypt and Zambia.

Egypt’s target of 7.2 GW of wind power by 2022 will lead to considerable investments in the near future. The North African country’s estimated investment potential for wind power is $11 billion by 2020, compared to just $5 billion for solar projects.

Zambia, on the other hand, made headlines as the home of Africa’s cheapest solar just over a year ago. Now, the Southern African country known more for its formidable solar and hydropower, is turning to wind with the help of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) grant funding for a 130MW wind farm that Access Power will develop with EREN Renewable Energy.

Only the beginning…

 Things are going in the right direction, so there is reason to believe in the potential of Africa’s wind industry as certain countries, whether likely or unlikely, are showing the way. The next couple of years should see a lot exciting wind projects come to fruition, and it seems inevitable that the current constellation of goodwill, capital and innovation will allow Africa to take the opportunity to chart its own industrial path, towards a clean energy future.

Related Content

Afreximbank on COVID-19 opportunities & challenges for intra-Africa trade

Members of the African Union had set July 1 as the day to operationalize the African Free Trade Area Agreement but with COVID-19 pandemic affecting all member countries, this has been pushed back to a yet to be named date though some experts believe the AfCFTA implementation should go ahead. So could this be an opportunity for improved Intra Africa trade? Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist Afreximbank joins CNBC Africa for more.

Coronavirus: African Union Member States reporting COVID-19 cases As of 26 May 2020, 9am EAT

Central (12,167 cases; 343 deaths; 3,226 recoveries): Burundi (42; 1; 20),Cameroon (4,890; 165; 1,865), Central African Republic (652; 1; 22), Chad (687; 61; 244), Congo (487; 16; 147), DRC (2,297; 67; 337), Equatorial Guinea (719; 7; 22), Gabon (2,135; 14; 562), Sao Tome & Principe (258; 11; 7) Eastern (12,809; 349; 3,409): Comoros (87; 1; 21), Djibouti (2,468; 14; 1,079), Eritrea (39; 0; 39), Ethiopia (655; 5; 159), Kenya (1,286; 52; 402), Madagascar (542; 2; 147), Mauritius (334; 10; 322),

Coronavirus – Africa: Urban refugees struggling to survive as economic impact of COVID19 worsens in East, Horn and Great Lakes of Africa

Download logoThis is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Refugees in urban areas across the East, Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa are struggling to meet their most basic needs as the economic impact of COVID19 begins take hold. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is working closely with governments and partners to find solutions for urban refug

Evariste Ndayishimiye declared victor of Burundi’s bitter presidential election

Burundi's election commission declared the governing party's candidate, Evariste Ndayishimiye, the winner of the country's presidential election amid accusations of rigging by the leading opposition challenger. Ndayishimiye, a retired army general, won 68.72 per cent of the votes in last week's ballot, while Agathon Rwasa, the main opposition leader, received 24.19 per cent according to the electoral commission. Political and Economic Analyst, Jean Claude Nkundwa joins CNBC Africa for more.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

How can professional athletes weather the COVID-19 crisis?

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest sports years for Kenya and East Africa, with athletes from the region set to participate in highly anticipated events like, the Magical Kenya Open, the Basketball Africa League, the African Championship of Nations and the Olympics. With all these sporting events and more being cancelled and postponed; and with gym closures and limited access to coaches leading to no place to train; where does that leave professional athletes and elite hopefuls as the world battles the Covid-19 pandemic? Sports Analyst, Sharon Allela joins CNBC Africa for more.

COVID-19 exposes Africa’s urban planning challenges

Physical distancing as a measure to avoid the spread of COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the necessity to create more public spaces and inclusive streets in African cities. Constant Cap, Urban Planner at Naipolitans joins CNBC Africa for more.

COVID-19: Old Mutual on creating shared valued in times of crisis

Investor appetite has been affected as a result of the pandemic and with this so have the practices of many businesses on the continent.

Mozambique records first COVID-19 death

Mozambique has confirmed its first COVID-19 death, the health ministry on Monday said.

Trending Now

Quite frankly, be candid… What African mining bosses and the minister call each other behind closed doors

For years it has been daggers drawn between government and mine owners in disputes over mining regulations that the latter fear are driving away investors from starting new mines.

Droppa CEO on adapting and innovating to the harsh realities of COVID-19

Covid-19 has left many businesses with the stark reality of closing down or adapting. One company that is doing the latter is Droppa. Its CEO Khathu Mufamadi joins CNBC Africa for more.

The harsh taste of COVID-19 on Famous Brands

Famous Brands, the owner of several of South Africa’s best loved restaurant chains has scrapped its dividend for the second half of its financial year to preserve its balance sheet. The owner of Steers and Tashas warned that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the group. Famous Brands CEO, Darren Hele joins CNBC Africa for more.

African Bank CEO on how the bank is cushioning its customers from the effects of COVID-19

The Covid-19 lock-down has put pressure on individuals and businesses’ finances like never before. But what can be done to ease the pressure? Basani Maluleke, CEO, African Bank joins CNBC Africa for more.
- Advertisement -