New report on the status of renewable energy in Africa shows that more ambition can help towards a just recovery from COVID-19

Johannesburg, South Africa – A new report released today shows that Africa is slowly planning a renewable energy powered future. Climate justice activist organisations and WoMin African Alliance commissioned the research for Renewable Energy in Africa: An opportunity in a time of crisis before the COVID-19 health pandemic swept across the globe, to map out Africa’s ambition towards dealing with the continent’s other crisis – its energy crisis. COVID-19 is exacerbating existing developmental issues like access to energy, bringing to attention the need to develop renewable energy as part of a just recovery from the pandemic.  

With the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 impacting lives and livelihoods, governments are searching for solutions. While some countries have made commitments to increasing their energy coming from renewable sources, there is abundant potential for more to be done. This will not only support decentralised, homegrown development, but will also assist communities across the continent to counter the impacts of the virus and future shocks. Importantly, for renewable energy to be a success in Africa, the rights and collective decisions of local communities have to be taken into consideration. 

The report shows that by 2030 renewable energy installations are projected to go up to over 77GW. This is a massive increase from the less than 15GW currently operating. However, by 2030 coal will still have a 43% share of installed energy capacity in Africa. The uptake of renewable energy technologies in the form of geothermal, solar, ocean wave, wind and small hydro, thus falls far short of that of fossil fuels, including diesel and fossil gas installations. In the context of the global climate, ecological and health crises, more ambitious plans are needed from African governments to leapfrog dirty energy and secure people’s access to clean energy.

The report, which maps renewable energy projects across ten African countries (Botswana, DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda), shows that where issues have been encountered with renewable energy, they are largely due to the implementation of the projects. The hugely detrimental impacts of the operation of fossil fuel plants to people and the environment are absent. However, the problems in implementation of large renewable energy projects can mirror those of fossil fuel projects. The report therefore highlights the importance of community participation and consent in the planning of the project, agreement on community benefits including having access and right to the energy produced and the opportunity and ability of the community to own all or part of the project.

On the sidelines of the launch, Landry Ninteretse, the Regional Team Lead for said:

“Renewable energy is already well suited to Africa. Many people live out of reach of centralised grids, however in a continent rich in wind, hydro and solar resources, they should be easily deployed to meet the needs of these unserved and underserved populations.”

Trusha Reddy, Head of WoMin’s Energy and Climate Justice Programme added:

“Where renewable energy projects are sited and constructed, it should be done in a way that reduces negative impacts. In constructing renewable energy, we need to be sensitive to the ecological and community impacts – particularly those of women, and to ensure the benefits are shared equitably. We also need to be wary of blindly following an industrial model of renewable energy development which involves massive destructive mining of minerals for components. Different models should be explored.”

Globally, there has been a significant push to move to renewable energy, as it has the potential of not only transforming the lives of millions but is kinder to the planet. However, in order for renewable energy to be truly transformative it needs to reach the energy and economically poor; the move to 100% clean energy should avoid the old models of energy generation that have denied people access to energy and have resulted in land grabs, environmental destruction, pollution and above all the fueling of climate change. 

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