Alarming new data shows that coal, liquid fuels and gas are strengthening their grip on Africa’s power sector. Investments in renewables are too slow to keep pace with demand growth. With the ink still drying on Katowice’s COP24 agreement, Terje Osmundsen’s latest blog post makes for urgent reading…
Wind is growing in Africa, but not fast enough to keep up with fossil fuel growth
Despite all the talk of making Africa greener, the share of renewables in Africa’s power production actually dropped in the period from September 2017 to September 2018. This alarming statistic was presented at the launch of the 2018 African Energy Data Book, on the occasion of the Africa Investment Exchange in London November 15, 2018.
According to the same publication, the proportion of renewable energy in the generation mix has declined so far in 2018 in all regions except Central Africa.
Despite a slight increase in the overall share of wind and solar in three of the five regions, the slow growth in hydro combined with sustained growth in all forms of hydrocarbons resulted in an overall increase in the share of plants running on hydrocarbons and a corresponding reduction in the shares of renewables.
The use of both of the two most polluting sources of power production, coal and liquid fuels, is still growing in Africa.
Since 2010, coal power has increased its installed capacity in Africa by 13%, and is expected to peak in 2022 at 60 GW.
Perhaps more surprising is the increased reliance on liquid fuels – diesel, HFO (High Sulphur Oil) and other fuels – in the power sector. Overall, the share of plants running exclusively on liquid fuels rose from 8,6% to 19% in 2018. In addition, a large share of the dual gas/liquids-powered plants built in Africa are running on liquids as well.
the proportion of renewable energy in the generation mix has declined so far in 2018 in all regions except Central Africa
In reality, the dominance of fossil fuels in Africa’s electricity generation is even higher than accounted for here. This is because the African Energy Live Data does not include the so-called “Emergency power” segment, i.e. the millions of distributed diesel “gensets” (generators) feeding directly into large and small energy users across Africa.
Emergency power from diesel generators typically counts for 10–20 percent the total generating capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study cited in my blog post: Energy access for all – a double-edged sword?
In Nigeria alone, it is estimated that the country’s 9-million generators emit 19-million tons CO2 per year, equal to the emissions from 4–5 average-sized coal power plants.
The growing dependence on fossil fuels in power generation highlights the urgent need to accelerate investments in renewables across the continent.
But experience shows that the conventional strategy of mainly relying on centralised power plants combined with high-voltage transmission to the population and economic centres take far too many years to implement and often become more expensive than originally anticipated.
The obvious solution is a move to distributed renewable generation – i.e. generation closer to the user and often behind the user’s meter – it would bring affordable power to Africa’s users more quickly – and at a lower cost than the alternatives. Sadly not obvious enough.
EDITOR’s NOTE: Re-published by kind permission. Original post by Terje Osmundsen, Founder & CEO, Empower New Energy, from his excellent Energy and Climate blog.