Due to increasing demand, installed capacity of renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa is set to almost double in the coming years. Over the next 5 years, cumulative capacity of renewable energy in Africa is expected to rise to almost 70%.


Power and energy is intrinsic to the African continent’s growth. Throughout the continent, as well as globally, there has been a concerted move towards depending on renewable energy in Africa. According to Paolo Frankl, head of the renewable division at the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) “A big chunk of this (growth) is hydro because of Ethiopia, but then you have solar … in South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia and wind in South Africa and Ethiopia as well,” Frankl predicts that installed capacity of renewable energy in the Sub-Sahara region will almost double from around 35 gigawatts now to above 60 GW given the right conditions.

The pushback:

For renewable energy in Africa to grow, it will require a lot of work. According to Frankl, “Africa has one of the best potential resources of renewables anywhere in the world, but it depends very much on the enabling framework, on the governance and the right rules.” There has been pushback from some governments, particularly those dependent on coal mining as a form of economic growth and job creation following the transition to a low-carbon trajectory to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. South Africa’s leading electric public utility, Eskom, has been especially reluctant to sign new deals with independent power producers. Eskom says it won’t sign new power producer agreements (PPAs) because the cost of electricity from independent power producers (IPPs) is too high. Many have questioned Eskom’s reluctance, considering the potential for job creation, skills development and socio-economic benefits that can come from these deals.

The inability of Eskom to sign the new power purchase agreements for two years has delayed investment of R58 billion, and hit investor confidence with at least one wind turbine manufacturing plant closing down, according to the South African Wind Energy Association. “The continent has a lot of potential, but the problem is financial and political issues, so all of our projects are being delayed for quite a long time, like with Eskom,” said Mason Qin, business development manager for southern and eastern Africa at China’s Goldwind.

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