Africa’s road to a renewable future

Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 and its energy needs will grow even faster. If current growth rates are maintained Africa’s GDP will increase seven-fold by 2050....

Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 and its energy needs will grow even faster. If current growth rates are maintained Africa’s GDP will increase seven-fold by 2050. Providing full electricity access to all Africans will require at least a doubling of total electricity production by 2030 from current levels. The continent’s vast untapped renewable energy resources can supply the majority of this future energy demand and are suited to supply both concentrated, high-load urban centers and remote, dispersed rural areas.

Investing in renewable energy in Africa makes good business sense. With world-class solar and hydropower resources, complemented by bioenergy, wind, geothermal and marine resources in some regions, Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog to modern renewable energy.

Renewable energy technologies are now the most economical solution for off-grid and mini-grid electrification in remote areas, as well as for grid extension in some cases of centralised grid supply with good renewable resources.

African governments are embracing renewable energy to fuel the sustainable growth of their economies. A number of recent Ministerial declarations attest to the strong political commitment and far-sighted vision of African decision-makers, which are being articulated through dedicated regional and national institutions and plans.

Renewable resources are plentiful, demand is growing, technology costs are falling and the political will has never been stronger. The moment is right for a rapid scale-up of renewable energy in Africa. Governments must provide leadership to create the enabling framework for private investors in Africa’s energy sector. Standardising procedures is an essential element of successful public policies to promote a sound business environment. In the power sector, improving the governance structure, operational performance and financial viability of national utilities is an important pre-condition to deploy renewable energy at scale.

Ambitious regional grid integration projects such as the East and Southern Africa Clean Energy Corridor have the potential to significantly transform the African energy landscape.   All we need is a dream and determination to make this happen. Being able to implement this dream throughout Africa will have a major impact not only for the People of Africa but around the World.

Energy Situation in Liberia

Liberia has currently a population of roughly 4 million people. It is estimated that 76% of the population has an income of less than US$1 a day and 52% less than US$ 0.50 a day. Poverty is considerably higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

Modern energy services based on electricity and petroleum products are predominantly used for economic production and transportation. In the household sector, the use of modern energy services consists mainly of kerosene, electricity, and liquefied petroleum gas for lighting, cooking, and entertainment. These are used by higher income households in urban areas. Historically electricity was mainly provided in the capital of Monrovia; around 35,000 customers—almost 13 percent of the population—were served by 1989.

Energy Policy and Strategy

The Government of Liberia (GOL) is considering energy access to the population, particularly to the previously neglected rural poor a cornerstone of its policy. The GoL published in 2007 a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy and Action Plan. In the document the government outlines its policy to build and increase the application of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies in Liberia by promoting investment, technology transfer, market development and local capacity building. In 2009 a National Energy Policy (NEP) was formulated which further developed the ideas of the Policy and Action Plan. NEP defines as principal objective of the national energy policy to ensure universal access to modern energy services in an affordable, sustainable and environmentally-friendly manner in order to foster the economic, political, and social development of Liberia. In addition, the GOL declares its intention to drive Liberia towards a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

The GOL expects to achieve its access goals for 2015 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10%, improving energy efficiency by 20%, raising the share of renewable energy to 30% of electricity production and 10% of overall energy consumption, and increasing the level of biofuels in transport fuel to 5%. However, it seems that the GOL is increasingly becoming aware that they will not be able to achieve the goals till 2015. Recently they defined as new goals – this time for 2030- to reach electricity coverage of 70 per cent of the population in Monrovia, and 35 per cent nationwide by 2030.

Thomas P. Mitchell

Thomas is an Environmental Activist in Liberia, West Africa. He is currently working with the United Nations Environmental Youth Action Initiative (UNEYAI) Liberia, a non UN group that is legally registered in Liberia and has its international secretariat in the US. He is very passionate about working on environmental issues, making communities in Liberia cleaner, healthier, safer and greener. Climate Change, Sanitation, and Deforestation are some of his interest areas. He is also interested in working with other environmentalist, activist, ngos, and environmental groups, which is one of his targeted partnership focus to pragmatically mitigate environmental degradation.
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