COP21: African Renewable Energy Initiative launched, 300 GW 2030 target

Underlining its commitment to electrify the continent, Africa’s leaders have launched AREI at this year’s COP currently underway in Paris, in response to the fact 640 million have no access to electricity, while 7 million have no access to clean alternatives.

The news came on the back of comments by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday that Africa’s leaders have an "enormous stake" in the success of the Paris talks. "Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change," he said.

The overall goal of AREI is to produce 300 GW of electricity for Africa by 2030 from clean, affordable and appropriate forms of energy. By 2020, it intends to have 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy capacity, while by 2030, the plan is to "mobilize the African potential to generate at least 300 GW." Solar is expected to play a leading role. "We are ready to engage in massive solar and wind energy production to attain 100 per cent electricity reach for our people," stated Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina said that the continent loses 4% of its GDP due to a lack of clean energy. "Sunshine should do more than just nourish our crops. It must light our homes. Our massive water resources should do more than water our farms, it should power our industries. Potential is important, but homes and industries cannot be powered by potential. Africa must unlock its renewable energy potentials," he said. pv magazine has contacted the AfDB for more specific details.

AREI is an outcome of African leadership in Workstream II of the Durban Platform including their May 2014 proposal for a global renewable energy support programme. It has been endorsed by African Heads of State (AU Assembly and Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change) and Ministers of Environment (AMCEN) the G7 (Elmau Summit) the G20 (Energy Summit).

In the run up to the climate talks, the AfDB said it would triple climate financing to $5 billion a year by 2020, thus increasing such investments to 40% of its total new investments. Half of this will be used to reduce Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions via the implementation of renewable energy, particularly solar; while the rest will be used to help African economies adapt to climate change through climate-resilient crops, for example, and improving access to water.

Due to the favorable irradiance, solar is seen as a key solution to Africa’s energy problem, particularly in light of the off-grid solutions available. Recent solar news from the continent includes Indian EPC company, Sterling and Wilson’s plans to install 500 MW across Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Algeria, Tanzania, Namibia and Morocco over the next three years; and commitments from both the World Bank and AfDB to channel US$50 million in improving access to electricity in Rwanda and Uganda, respectively.