“Africa will be the powerhouse of the world”

Africa will be at the centre of the global energy map in the coming decade, thanks to massive investments in renewable energy technologies, the electricity grid, and off-grid appliances.

25 participants from 17 countries at annual AREA conference in Bellagio, Italy

Participants of the annual meeting of the African Renewable Energy Alliance (AREA) made this positive conclusion based on the drastic price decline of renewable energy technologies; recent political developments; and the specific benefits of renewable energies for off-grid regions. The conference, hosted by the World Future Council and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Centre in Italy last week, gathered experts, politicians and investors from 17 countries.

“Africa will be the powerhouse of the world,” said Professor Salah Arafa from the American University in Cairo and member of the AREA Steering Committee. “It will be the number one continent to do business and it will be leading in renewable energy projects.”

Major success factors for the uptake of renewable energy in Africa are political stability and strong political will. Furthermore, participants stressed that once the market faces a level playing field for all types of energy – fossil fuels included – renewable energy will simply be the cheapest option. AREA therefore called upon governments to redirect fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy infrastructure.

In addition, it was mentioned that the development of the renewable energy market requires an enabling political and economic environment. This includes financial incentives such as tax reductions as well as supporting regulatory infrastructure. Mechanisms such as microfinancing can have negative impacts when implemented as a ‘stand alone solution.’

Dipal Barua, Founder of the Bright Green Energy Foundation and World Future Councillor called instead for comprehensive solutions: “What we need for renewable energy is ‘inclusive financing’, which includes microfinancing, the supply of technology and capacity building measures.”

Wisdom Ahiataku-Togobo, Director Renewable Energy, Ministry of Energy, Ghana said, “Renewable energy, especially solar and wind, has a leading role to play when it comes to energy access in rural areas.”

Cape Verde is taking a pioneering role in renewable energy development in Africa: the West African Islands have set a goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2020. Abraão Andrade Lopez, Director General of the Ministry of Industry and Energy announced that the country is currently running a study exploring how to achieve 100 percent renewable energy.

A project aiming to foster electricity provision in rural areas based on a mini-grid with existing telecommunication infrastructure was presented by Lillian Chege, Associate of the Rockefeller Foundation.

AREA predicts massive renewable energy uptake in Africa in the next ten years.

The AREA network is a multi stakeholder dialogue aimed to accelerate the deployment of decentralised renewable energy on the African continent. Founded by the World Future Council in 2009, it currently comprises 900 members from 72 countries.

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012