Investments in green energy infrastructure can fast-track Africa’s development – UN report


Energy consumption in Africa is the lowest in the world, and per capita consumption has barely changed since 2000 shows The Atlas of Africa Energy Resources, a report jointly published by the UN Environment and African Development Bank.
Current energy production in Africa is insufficient to meet demand.
About a third of the total African population still lacks access to electricity and 53 per cent of the population depends on biomass for cooking, space heating and drying.
A kettle boiled twice by a family in the United Kingdom uses five times as much electricity as a Malian would use in a year.
Prepared in collaboration with the Environment Pulse Institute, United States Geological Survey and George Mason University, the Atlas consolidates the information on the energy landscape in Africa.
It provides information in the form of detailed ‘before and after’ images, charts, maps and other satellite data from 54 countries through visuals detailing the challenges and opportunities in providing Africa’s population with access to reliable, affordable and modern energy services.
“The Atlas makes a strong case that investments in green energy infrastructure can bolster Africa’s economic development and bring it closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative, UN Environment, Africa Office.
“It is an important policy guide for African governments as they strive to catalyse national development by making use of their energy resources,” she added.
The Atlas shows both the potential and the fragility of the continent’s energy resources which are at the heart of Africa’s socio-economic development.
It highlights some success stories of sustainable energy development around the continent, but it also puts the spotlight on major environmental challenges associated with energy infrastructure development.
The Atlas provides highlights of failures and good practices in the management of hazardous waste generation and pollution associated with oil and gas explorations in various countries in Africa. It recommends opportunities that can be realized through the engagement of private sector and partnerships in sustainable management of wastes in the energy sector.
An overview of Africa’s energy resources
“The Atlas provides a comprehensive overview of Africa’s energy resources and highlights the challenges of climate change and pollution, such as indoor air pollution, which impede on the achievements of the SDGs,” said Amadou Hott, Vice-President in charge of power, energy, climate and green growth, African Development Bank.
Reserves of coal, natural gas and oil represent 3.6 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 7.6 per cent of global reserves respectively. A growing population, sustained industrialization and rising urbanization mean that energy demand in Africa is increasing. Only an insignificant fraction of the existing energy potential has been tapped into—leaving the continent lagging behind in the production and manufacturing sectors due to low and unreliable access to energy.
Key findings
Key findings and concerns outlined in the Atlas indicate that Africa boasts of the world’s lowest per capita energy consumption. With 16 per cent of the world’s population (1.18 billion people out of 7.35 billion), it consumes about 3.3 per cent of global primary energy; and with current trends, it will take Africa up till 2080 to achieve full access to electricity.
The atlas also established that of all energy sources, Africa consumes mostly oil (42 per cent of its total energy consumption) followed by gas (28 per cent), coal (22 per cent), hydro (6 per cent), renewable energy (1 per cent) and nuclear (1 per cent); that South Africa is the world’s seventh largest coal producer and accounts for 94 per cent of Africa’s coal production; and that Africa’s renewable energy resources are diverse, unevenly distributed and enormous in quantity — almost unlimited solar potential (10 TW), abundant hydro (350 GW), wind (110 GW) and geothermal energy sources (15 GW).
Also, nearly 60 per cent of refrigerators used in health clinics in Africa have unreliable electricity, compromising the safe storage of vaccines and medicines; half of vaccines are ruined due to lack of refrigeration.
While energy from biomass accounts for more than 30 per cent of the energy consumed in Africa and more than 80 per cent in many sub-Saharan African countries, indoor pollution from biomass cooking, a task usually carried out by women, the reports says, will soon kill more people than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
The atlas found out that sub-Saharan Africa has undiscovered, but technically recoverable, energy resources estimated at about 115.34 billion barrels of oil and 21.05 trillion cubic metres of gas and that more women than men suffer from energy poverty.