Tapping into Africa's renewable energy to end the energy crisis

Updated on October 15,2022

Kenya Paraffin Lamps & Candle Company is the name Kenyans have rebranded the monopoly electricity service provider Kenya Power & Lighting Company. Kenyans have gotten used to the outrageous frequent power blackouts. Imagine rushing home from work to watch your favourite TV show or you are in the midst of serious business in your phone or laptop and your battery level is low only to realize that there is no power? Well, you’ll just have to swallow the bitter pill and nurse your frustrations slowly or better still yell a tweet to KPLC on how they are busy promoting ‘mpango wa candle’. Personally, I stopped trusting KPLC the moment I saw backup generators in their offices.

The energy crisis in Africa is like that of a fool and his blanket who felt cold on his toes so he cut off the top of the blanket to sew back on the bottom of the feet. Africa is endowed with limitless potential for solar and other renewable energy sources yet more than an estimated number of 600 million Africans don't have access to reliable electricity. Electricity is important for improving everything from education to productivity in manufacturing and processing. The crisis is due to the over-reliance on cheap subsidized fossil fuels which have not only caused reluctance of our governments to invest in the tapping of renewable energy sources but has also contributed immensely to the ever-increasing environmental pollution. Fossil fuel is still the preferred source of energy in the rural areas and soon if not sooner,  we are going to run out of oil.

There is a dire need for African countries to tap into and harness the abundant wind and solar energy as we gear to tackle the anticipated surge in electricity demand that is expected to triple by 2030.These gigantic resources can be tapped at a relatively low cost. The sub-Saharan belt has vast solar amounts and wind energy to the North. Concentrated Solar Power technology can be used to mine this resource. Though we might blame lack of finance as a major setback to tapping in such potential, DFI ’s, the World Bank and other financial institutions can be requested to chip in for such worthy courses or better yet, let our governments prioritise wisely. CSPs such as below would go along way in solving the problem if and when installed

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Africa’s economic future depends on producing affordable energy to power its growth and industries. Energy is vital for rapid and sustained economic growth. The energy crisis stalls economic growth which also retards our nation’s ability to fight poverty and improve education. Simple innovations like backpacks fitted with solar panel could greatly help our kids back in off the grid areas. The bags charge during the day which helps them power reading lamps at night. This also helps eliminate respiratory diseases associated with kerosene lamps used in these households. With the daily upsoar in the unemployment rate, an estimated 20 million jobs need to be created annually. Development of labour-intensive sectors like manufacturing and agriculture can help solve the menace. These sectors, however, require affordable ever reliable energy. Sufficient energy has to be produced to power these burgeoning industries.

However, not all is lost thanks to the pace-setting African countries that are striving to tap into these resources. Morocco, Ethiopia, South Africa, Gabon, Kenya are already embracing these inexhaustible resources. Kenya for example with all the energy problems has almost 60% of its electricity production coming from renewable resources thanks to its vast geothermal deposits, wind and biogas. Almost 55% of Kenyans have access to the clean green energy and although Kenya is still striving to meet the universal access of 95%.Tech companies such as Safaricom are also trying to lighten up rural communities through their M-KOPA platforms that enable you to access solar products and pay the loan in instalments.Jua kali sectors industries too are up on innovations by devising local solar tapping equipment that improves general life quality of those in remote areas.

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An example of a jua kali water heater used in the off-grid area. Conveniently enables the people to enjoy presumed urban life only available to those with electricity connection.

Renewable energy investment in Africa is likely to be the next churner of the next billionaires.

Political decision makers should, therefore, be informed of the overall potential of renewable energy sources in terms of electricity generation, job creation, improved healthcare and environmental sustainability.