When UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched the International Solar Alliance last October, he applauded the goal of mobilizing about $1 trillion dollars towards the deployment of some 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030.
That revolution is also taking place under the leadership of the African Development Bank (AfDB) which has embarked on a highly ambitious solar project to make Africa a renewable powerhouse, titled “Desert to Power (DTP) Initiative”.
This project is expected to stretch across the Sahel region by tapping into the region’s abundant solar resource.
The Initiative aims to develop and provide 10 GW of solar energy by 2025 and supply 250 million people with green electricity including in some of the world’s poorest countries. At least 90 million people will be connected to electricity for the first time, lifting them out of energy poverty.
Currently, 64% of the Sahel’s population covering Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Eritrea live without electricity, a major barrier to development, with consequences for education, health, and business.
The AfDB has rightly pointed out that lack of energy remains a significant impediment to Africa’s economic and social development.
One of the ventures under the DTP Initiative includes the Yeleen Rural Electrification Project, involving the production of off-grid energy in Burkina Faso.
The project is financed through the Bank’s African Development Fund, in addition to co-financing mobilized by the Bank from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and the European Union. The project will also leverage private sector investments through equity and debt raised from commercial banks.
It will harness solar energy to deliver access to more than 900,000 people in rural areas – nearly 5% of the country’s population and is expected to result in an average annual CO2 emissions reduction of 15,500 tons.
According to AfDB, energy poverty in Africa is estimated to cost the continent 2-4 % GDP annually. The details of the “Desert to Power Initiative” were outlined as part of the Paris Agreement climate change talks at COP24 in Katowice, Poland.
According to AfDB, many women-led businesses currently face bigger barriers than men led enterprises to access grid electricity, so the project has the potential to increase female participation in economic activities and decision-making processes.
The project was launched in collaboration with the Green Climate Fund, a pool created by the 194 countries that are a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to support developing countries adapt to and mitigate climate change. The program is designed to combine private sector capital to blended finance.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) estimates that Africa’s renewable energy potential could put it at the forefront of green energy production globally.
It is estimated to have an almost unlimited potential of solar capacity (10 TW), abundant hydro (350 GW), wind (110 GW), and geothermal energy sources (15 GW) and a potential overall renewable energy capacity of 310 GW by 2030.
Other renewable projects in Africa include The Ouarzazate solar complex in Morocco, which is one of the largest concentrated solar plants in the world.
It has produced over 814 GWh of clean energy since 2016 and last year, the solar plant prevented 217,000 tons of CO2 being emitted. Until recently, Morocco sourced 95% of its energy needs from external sources.
Source: Inter Press Service