Africa's energy future

This article is also published in Norwegian by Energi og Klima, and has been published by Africa Utility Week/POWERGEN and ESI Africa

New study draws blueprint for transition to fossil-free electricity, heat and transport.

In a few weeks thousands of energy leaders and experts in Africa will meet at the African Utility Week/POWERGEN Africa in Cape Town in South Africa, to exchange views and lessons shaping the continent’s energy future. Whether or not Africa can meet its growing energy needs and at the same time become 100 % renewable is the main question asked in a recently published study addressing the world’s future energy system.

The energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa can become 100% renewable by 2050, leading to lower energy costs, better health and environment and the number of direct energy jobs in Africa increasing from 1,2 to more than 5 million in 2050. An accelerated scaling of wind and in particular decentralized solar PV energy can, in combination with electrification of transport, cooking, heating and desalination and deployment of batteries and other storage technologies, result in a complete phase-out of fossil fuels in Africa within 2050.

These are among the findings in an important new research report, “Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy”, recently published by LUT University in Finland and the Berlin-based Energy Watch Group. The report shows that technologies for renewable energy, batteries and electric motors now have become so mature that they can fully replace oil and gas over the next 30 years, at a lower cost than today's fossil-based energy system. Is this realistic?

Main driving force: Electrification and cheaper renewables

The key driving force in the study is that electricity from sun and wind now have become cheaper than the fossil alternatives, and that the price difference will increase significantly in the years to come. This growing price divergence implies that it will become increasingly attractive to close down coal and gas power plants in the period up to 2030 and beyond. Furthermore, rapidly falling prices for batteries will increase the profitability of electricity storage. In 2050, it is estimated that stored electric