Few regions in the world possess the enormous solar energy resources of Africa and the Middle East, yet both regions have yet to reach their solar generating capacity potentials. Electrification is an urgent need in Africa, where many of its 54 countries are among the world’s fastest-growing economies but where half the population still has no access to electricity. Oil-rich countries in the Middle East are at the beginning of what is sure to be a robust transition to solar energy to meet the growing domestic demand for electricity, freeing up hydrocarbons for export. This solar energy book review for The Sun Is Rising in Africa and the Middle East: On the Path to a Solar Energy Future offers a broad overview of the 2018 text as it attempts to outline the energy transition in Africa and the Middle East from dependence on fossil fuels to increasing reliance on solar energy. The authors provide a sound basis for understanding where solar energy is heading in these two important global regions.
The book by Peter Varadi, Frank Wouters, and Allan Hoffman includes chapters by contributors Anil Cabraal, Richenda Van Leeuwen, and Wolfgang Palz. The Sun Is Rising in Africa and the Middle East is broken into 8 sections, each of which deconstructs a different dimension of the background, status, needs, and future possibilities of solar in Africa and the Middle East.
Incorporating many topics and data, the book starts with an overview of energy production and consumption in Africa and the Middle East, then moves into solar technologies for electricity generation. Electric grid issues follow, describing mini-grids, regional power tools in Africa, and Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority. Regional and interaction solar initiative support is outlined from European, US, and World Bank sources.
Issues of existing and emerging solar EV markets are next, which include water pumping, clean water, off-grid telecom towers, mining, and tele-medicine and tele-education. A section on financing — which the authors say is the key to Africa and the Middle East’s solar energy future — offers ideas about size, risk, expansion, pay-as-you-go, and large-scale auctions. Local value creation analysis includes an overview of local content requirements and solar manufacturing.
Ultimately, a discussion of the content of future solar programs in Africa and in the Middle East concludes the book, with an epilogue that offers final insights into how to utilize this diffuse energy source cost-effectively and meet, in an environmentally friendly way, the needs of an expanding global population.
The Sun Is Rising in Africa and the Middle East is intended is to provide insights into the solar energy transition in Africa and in the Middle East, which the authors see as an “energy revolution.” They indicate that solar has major implications for bringing energy services not only to urban and peri-urban areas of Africa and the Middle East but also to those rural, off-grid areas currently without access to electricity.
What the book fails to do, however, is to move beyond an academic series of short, chunked data-driven analyses. It will serve professors well in undergraduate science classrooms due to its concise writing style, extensive definitions, and quantitative foundation. Climate change bloggers will find it a good contemporary resource. However, the stories of the people in Africa and in the Middle East — a huge geographic region with tremendous socioeconomic differences — are excluded. We hear primarily well-intentioned white male authors (with a couple of contributor exceptions).
It is through the voices of people in authentic contexts that we come to understand the relevance of energy; it must move beyond scenarios absent solar power that result in “serious economic problems or even bankruptcy,” as is described in The Sun Is Rising in Africa. More description of the actual lived experiences of the people across Africa and the Middle East would’ve resonated with an audience beyond that of academia. The Ernest Hemingway allusion deserves more human insight.
Pan Stanford Publishing released The Sun Is Rising in Africa and the Middle East: On the Path to a Solar Energy Future as the 9th book in its renewable energy series.The book is available in a paperback, Kindle, and digital format and can be found on several bookseller websites.
Photo by dirvish on Foter.com / CC BY
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