When Europeans first explored Africa, they called it the “Dark Continent” because of its vast unknown expanses, but in recent years that name could have been better applied within the context of energy poverty and fossil fuel reliance.
Fortunately, a major new renewable energy announcement is shining a light on Africa’s biggest economy, illuminating a bright clean energy future for the entire continent in the process.
Nigeria has signed a series of agreements with SkyPower FAS Energy, a joint venture between SkyPower Global and FAS Energy, to develop and operate 3,000 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants over the next five years.
$5 Billion, 30,000 Green Jobs From Nigeria Solar Power
The agreements were finalized through a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between Canada and Nigeria during the World Economic Forum on Africa, and will start bringing zero-carbon distributed generation online in phases, starting as soon as 2015.
All told, the solar agreements are worth an estimated $5 billion in capital requirements, and will create more than 30,000 green jobs in Nigeria over the life of the projects – many of which will be sourced through local businesses and partners.
The new solar energy installations will be located in the Delta State of Nigeria, long known as the country’s most prolific oil-producing region, and may herald a shift away from fossil fuels. “It represents a continued effort to provide clean and renewable energy that can be sustained for decades to come,” said Doctor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, Delta State Governor. “Delta State: Beyond oil into solar.”
Renewables Key To Ending Africa’s Energy Poverty
And while adding new solar capacity sounds like a good idea for Nigeria, it could also hold the key to bringing millions of people out of energy poverty and meeting Africa’s fast-growing energy demands, while potentially leapfrogging over fossil fuels.
Roughly 600 million people live without access to electricity across Africa, a number expected to surge to 645 million by 2030 – roughly two-thirds of the worldwide total, according to the International Energy Agency. And most of those people will want to plug in cell phones and watch television without a gasoline-powered generator, or illuminate the night and cook without kerosene or charcoal.
In the near term, solar energy is expected to play a major role in Africa’s clean energy transition. Solar PV demand across the continent is expected to reach up to 6 GW by 2018, according to NPD SolarBuzz. “In the past 12 months, new plans for large PV projects have emerged across Africa,” said Susanne von Aichberger, NPD Solarbuzz analyst. “PV projects in the 100MW range have now become common as a means of expanding power generation capacity quickly.”
Over the long term, renewable energy could change the equation and create climate wealth where once only energy poverty existed. Africa’s renewable energy capacity is expected to quadruple to roughly 120 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 if investors dedicate funds to the region, reports the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Still, even though solar PV could mitigate the need for transmission lines while stimulating economic development in the region, financing is hard to come by. One avenue toward that investment goal could be international carbon financing through the Clean Development Mechanism. The World Bank estimates 44 countries across Africa could develop 170 GW of low-carbon power generation from 3,200 projects – more than twice the region’s current installed capacity.
“The energy deficit in Sub-Saharan Africa is enormous…it is estimated the African countries will need to spend at least 6% of their GDP on energy over the next 10 years,” said Dana Ryanskova of the World Bank. “Clean technologies may be viable alternatives worth exploring, but getting there is daunting.”
Innovative Investment Approach For A Sustainable Economy
That’s why announcements like the Nigeria solar PV projects are so important. The $5 billion in capital investment will come from a combination of bank debt, development bank financing, and equity partners. Through an innovative investment approach, Nigeria not only gets clean energy, but it also builds a sustainable economy.
“The signing of these agreements and commencement of these groundbreaking projects in Nigeria clearly demonstrate the country’s commitment to clean, renewable energy,” said Sabri Asfour, SkyPower FAS Energy general manager. “Combined expertise in infrastructure development and construction will generate a large number of new jobs, support skills development, and increase prosperity of the regions of the country where these solar projects will be built.”