Africa Could Quadruple Renewable Energy Capacity By 2030

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The International Renewable Energy Agency has concluded that Africa could quadruple its renewable energy share by 2030, generating a quarter of the continent’s energy needs.

remap2015zoom1These are the primary conclusions from a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Africa 2030, which aims to create “a comprehensive roadmap for Africa’s energy transition,” and recommends 14 actions deemed helpful to speeding the uptake of renewables across Africa. The report is part of IRENA’s REmap 2030 program.

“Africa holds some of the best renewable energy resources in the world in the form of biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “This, combined with the precipitous drop of renewable energy technology costs, creates a massive opportunity for African countries to both transform and expand their energy systems while providing a pathway for low-carbon economic growth.”

According to the report, Africa could see renewable energy “realistically meet” 22% of its energy needs by 2030, which equates to a more than four-fold increase on the 5% of 2013. Beyond the obvious benefits of minimizing traditional fossil fuel energy technologies, the report also concludes that such a scale-up of renewables in Africa “is an affordable means to help meet fast-growing energy demand while increasing energy access, improving health, and achieving sustainability goals.”

“Africa’s economy is growing at unprecedented speed,” write the authors of Africa 2030. “One of the core challenges as African countries continue to grow and develop is energy: meeting rising demand for power, transport and other uses in a way that is economically sustainable and safeguards livelihoods.”

Solar Installation in South African Village

The report identifies four key modern technologies as having the “highest deployment potentials” for Africa — modern biomass for cooking, hydropower, wind, and solar power. Specifically, the authors of the report believe that renewable energy could transform the continent’s electricity sector by pushing the share of renewables in the electricity mix to 50% by 2030 if the report’s suggestions are implemented. Hydropower and wind could each grow to around 100 GW capacity, while solar could grow to around 70 GW, resulting in an overall tenfold renewable energy capacity increase, and a reduction of 310 megatonnes of CO2 in emissions by 2030.

A shift to biomass-based cooking would reduce the use of traditional cook stoves by more than 60%, and save the continent between $20 to $30 billion annually by 2030 through the reduction of health complications commonly caused by current cooking methods, causing indoor air quality issues.

“Tapping into renewable energy resources is the only way African nations can fuel economic growth, maximise socio-economic development and enhance energy security with limited environmental impact,” said Mr. Amin. “The technologies are available, reliable and increasingly cost-competitive. The onus is now on Africa’s governments to create conditions to accelerate deployment, paving the way for Africa’s unfettered, sustainable development.”


The report puts forward fourteen recommendations, categorized under creating and enabling policy and regulatory framework; adopting investment promotion measures; and promoting off-grid renewable energy solutions to improve access to modern energy and contribute towards poverty reduction.

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4 thoughts on “Africa Could Quadruple Renewable Energy Capacity By 2030

  • Quadruple? They need 100x!!

    • At first I was surprised too, but keep in mind that Africa does have non-negligible amount of hydropower. So I think 4x total RE increase would be more like 20x-40x increase of wind+solar. Especially since much of hydro capacity has been harnessed so far.

    • I was about to say the same and post another comment about how inaccurate recent renewable energy forecasts have been (South Africa alone has seen a significant increase in renewables while struggling to complete an expensive new coal plant).

      But, reading it again, the quadruple is not referring to the amount of power but the share of total generation (5% to 22%), so the headline is misleading when referencing capacity. One would assume they’re predicting a massive increase in overall capacity by 2035, so total renewable capacity would increase by a lot more than 4 times. So while I think this is still an underestimate it does seem a bit more realistic when that is taken into consideration.

  • The omission is perhaps understandable given the wide focus, but Africa has very large traditional geothermal resources all along the huge Rift Valley bisecting East Africa. Geothermal’s despatchability and record reliability make it the perfect complement to variable wind and solar for grid balancing.

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