African delegates in Paris discuss continent's surging energy needs

Mahama Kappiah
Mahama Kappiah | Contributed photo
As COP21, the sixth annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, continued in Paris this week, African government officials took the opportunity to discuss ideas and their vision for meeting the continent's growing needs for more energy sources.

“With rapidly decreasing renewable-energy costs, the energy transition is within reach," Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)  said.

A main topic of discussion at COP21 was sustainable energy and how to use it efficiently. As the continent's population grows, so does the demand for access to electricity. If the continent's population continues to grow at its current rate, access to electricity will have to triple or even quadruple the current capacity -- which will be accomplished by dipping into Africa's stores of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.

Because renewable energy access is becoming a feature businesses want when they launch new facilities, African governments in 2014 created the African Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC). The initiative provides zoning and assessment of resources in member nations, in addition to planning and preparing investment frameworks, and disseminating information to the public.

Currently, most ACEC member nations are in east and south Africa, but several West African nations are set to join in the near future. By 2030, it is estimated that the availability of renewable energy in West Africa will jump from 28 percent to 48 percent.

“The ECOWAS region has 330 million people and less than 20 gigawatts of installed capacity," Mahama Kappiah, executive director of ECOWAS Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, said. "We must achieve universal access for all by 2030. To do this, we must adapt policies that push in that direction.”

It is estimated that the corridor could bring in enough investment dollars to cover up to half of the power needs in ACEC nations.

“To scale up employment in Africa to the levels needed, we must focus on renewable energy expansion," Carlos Lopes, executive secretary for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), said. "This industry can deliver the jobs we need for our people.”

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International Renewable Energy Agency

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