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Africa is turning to renewable energy to curb warming and boost the economy

MOMBASA – From wind farms on the African coast to geothermal projects in the East African Rift Valley, A new United Nations climate report on Monday brought the continent’s huge potential for clean energy into the spotlight. If realized, these renewable energy projects could mitigate the harshest effects of global warming, spur the continent’s projected economic development and lift millions out of poverty, the report says.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report comes at a time when the renewable energy business in Africa is already booming. Many African nations are intensifying their efforts to pursue alternative renewable energy avenues and move away from fossil fuel dependency, with countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa taking the lead in large-scale clean energy adoption.

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However, Africa has attracted only 2% – $60 billion – of the $2.8 trillion invested in renewable energy globally over the past two decades, and accounts for just 3% of current global renewable energy capacity. Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) or 2 °C (3.6 F), consistent with the Paris 2016 climate agreementwill involve an even greater transformation of the energy system, the UN report says.

That means more renewable energy initiatives, like Kenya’s Lake Turkana Wind Power, launched in 2019 some 600 km (372 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi and accounting for 18% of the country’s energy production is required. Its CEO, Phylip Leferink, said large projects like this can be replicated, but it remains a logistical challenge.

“The wind conditions in northern Kenya are quite unique for the continent. You will hardly find any other site in Africa with a similar wind regime,” said Leferink. “(This) does not mean, however, that there is no potential for other wind projects in Africa; there definitely is. The African coast in particular, from Djibouti south around South Africa and north again to Cameroon, has good wind potential and certainly warrants initiatives in this regard.”

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The project is already in good company as off-grid solar power also contributes to the country’s energy production. In Nakuru County, about 167 km (104 miles) northwest of Nairobi, James Kariuki signed M-Kopa Solar Power, a low-cost financing for off-grid solar power for his home.

“When I installed solar power in my home, I made significant savings by using kerosene lamps for lighting and charcoal in my home,” Kariuki said. “Since then my family’s hospital bills have come down and we now have internet and watch international sports at my house.”

Since 2012, M-Kopa has provided off-grid solar power to over 225,000 homes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Kenya has also been expanding its geothermal and bioenergy capacities for several years.

According to report author and energy expert Yamina Saheb, these initiatives are a clear step in the right direction.

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“Renewable energy sources are definitely an important mitigation strategy for Africa, providing decent living standards for its citizens by developing infrastructure and buildings that do not require high-carbon solutions,” Saheb told the Associated Press. “The entire continent could switch to solar power, including PV (photovoltaic) and thermal solar power, and some countries could also go to wind power.”

Solar energy initiatives like that Noor Ouarzazate complex in Morocco, the Benban solar farm in Egypt and the Redstone solar farm in South Africa have sprung up across the continent. The four nations attracted 75% of all renewable energy investments in the region.

Africa has a world-leading capacity for even more solar energy initiatives, the report says, with solar photovoltaic potential of up to 7,900 gigawatts. Plans are also underway to explore the potential for geothermal energy in East Africa’s Rift Valley system, and nations scattered across the continent such as Angola, Sudan and Zambia are investing in wind and hydropower.

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According to the IPCC report, a transition to clean energy may also be “economically attractive”. The United Nations estimates that Africa’s continued use of renewable energy will create more than 12 million new jobs. China remains the largest lender to Africa’s renewable energy investments, followed by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund.

“This latest report from the IPCC Working Group on Mitigation is a clear indicator that Africa should capitalize on the immense renewable energy opportunities available on the continent to spur economic growth and build resilient infrastructure,” said Max Bankole Jarrett, Energy expert and former Regional Manager for Africa at the International Energy Agency. “Africa’s vast renewable energy sources should be a priority not only for the continent but also for the world striving to reach net zero.”

53 African nations have already submitted their voluntary, nationally determined contributions under the Paris Climate Agreement, which details energy plans and outlines targets to curb emissions. 40 of these countries have included renewable energy targets.

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Africa is suffering some of the most severe impacts of climate change, despite being the continent with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions and adaptability. Parts of the continent still lack access to electricity and cooking fuels: The International Energy Agency estimates about 580 million people were without electricity in 2019, and the World Health Organization says about 906 million need cleaner fuels and cooking technologies. But providing universal access using non-renewable energy sources would result in increased global emissions, the report warned.

“Climate action is a key component to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” it said.

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https://www.ksat.com/business/2022/04/04/africa-looks-to-renewables-to-curb-warming-boost-economies/ Africa is turning to renewable energy to curb warming and boost the economy

Andrew Schnitker

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