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World Energy Outlook: Africa lags behind in renewables’ share of global energy mix

Climate activists protest against oil companies at the COP27 conference centre in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, in November 2022. Photo: Gilbert Mwijuke
Climate activists protest against oil companies at the COP27 conference centre in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, in November 2022. Photo: Gilbert Mwijuke

While the International Energy Agency (IEA) has projected in its latest World Energy Outlook that renewables’ share of the global electricity mix will be around 50 per cent in 2030 (up from around 30 today), experts say that Africa is likely lag behind because the continent doesn’t have a say in determining its energy development agenda.

The IEA report, which was released on October 24, said that peaks in global demand for coal, oil and natural gas are all visible this decade as the world continues to ramp up renewable energy projects.

Based on current policy settings, the IEA projected that in 2030 there will be almost 10 times as many electric cars on the road worldwide and heat pumps and other electric heating systems will outsell fossil fuel boilers globally.

The CSOs underscored the need to address the barriers to the build out of community-centered renewable energy systems

“I think that the current IEA report is very critical as far as the West is concerned,” said Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (Afiego). “All the projections of increased renewables and electric cars project a good future. However, when you look at Africa, the IEA report may not mean a lot.”

The IEA report projects three times as much investment going into new offshore wind projects than into new coal- and gas-fired power plants and that the share of fossil fuels in global energy supply, which has been stuck for decades at around 80 per cent, will decline to 73 per cent by 2030.

But Mr Kamugisha says that he does not see Africa achieving that – not even by 2050.

No affordable capital

“We have no affordable and flexible capital, no technology, no home leadership and no governance necessary to overcome the existing obstacles,” he says.

The IEA report says that, unlike a few decades ago, the solutions to today’s energy dilemmas are at our disposal and that for every $1 spent on fossil fuels, $1.8 is now being spent on clean energy. That ratio was 1:1 five years ago.

Mohamed Adow, the director of Power Shift Africa, also cites lack of leadership and action from politicians as the biggest obstacle in Africa’s green energy transition.

“The science is clear, we have the technology and we have the public support. What we need to see though is action from leaders, both in politics and business, to accelerate this transition. Otherwise it will be the world’s vulnerable people that will suffer the most,” he said.

Mr Adow said that decarbonising the global economy is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced and yet the benefits of doing so will be huge – and the cost, if we fail, will be severe.

Kelly Trout, Research Director at Oil Change International, said: “This year’s World Energy Outlook shows that the take-off of renewable energy is holding open the path to a livable climate, but it will close quickly unless governments commit to phase out fossil fuels now. There is a massive and deadly gap between current policies, which lead to a ‘peak’ in fossil fuels by the end of the decade, and the rapid declines in fossil fuels required to stave off runaway climate disaster. We can’t solve the climate crisis by adding renewable energy on top of new fossil fuels – we need to rapidly replace and phase out all fossil fuels, including gas.”

The road to COP28

According to Trout, the success of the upcoming COP28 negotiations will be judged by whether governments commit to a fast, fair, and fully funded end of the fossil fuel era, with wealthy countries in the lead and paying their fair share for a just energy transition.

Joyce Lee, Head of Policy and Projects at Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), said that whether the world can accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to a renewable energy-based system in time to keep 1.5°C within reach, is the question posed to all of us by this report.

“As the saying goes, we have to leave the island to see the island. For the first time ever, this year’s WEO reflects that the peaks for global demand of coal, oil and natural gas are all in sight within this decade,” she said.

According to Ms Lee, “We must collectively embrace the urgency needed to realise the energy transition in time. That means, foremost, agreeing a target to triple global renewable energy capital at COP28 this year, and then implementing this ambition through sharp policy interventions: speed up permitting, expand and modernise grids, set reasonable price signals for renewables markets, and invest in system flexibility.

A transition without a huge ramp-up of wind and solar energy in this decade will leave us stuck at a waypoint between fossil fuel dependency and decarbonisation – we need policy breakthroughs and grit to get us to 1.5°C, she said.

Activists to hold actions across Africa

In order to urge African governments to ramp up renewables and ditch fossil fuel projects, civil society organisations across the continent have organised widespread actions to rally political will around a global renewable energy revolution and call for the fossil fuel industry to pay up for its role in the crisis.

There is need for strong and steady promotion of renewable energy in the targeted countries by raising awareness of its benefits and opportunities
There is need for strong and steady promotion of renewable energy in the targeted countries by raising awareness of its benefits and opportunities

As the climate crisis wreaks havoc across the continent and beyond, fossil fuel companies are set to announce their quarterly billion dollar profits, made at the expense of people and the planet, according to 350.org, a climate-focused nonprofit that’s leading the campaign that is set for November 3-4.

The actions will take place as part of an initiative by 350.org dubbed “Power Up”, which demands that governments across the globe shift money away from polluting fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and channel substantial investments to powering up a safe, just and sustainable future built on people-centred renewables, 350.org said in a statement.

Over 150 actions will be held across the globe, with 23 of them to be held in 11 countries across Africa, including Kenya, South Africa, DR Congo, Nigeria, Benin, Niger and Ghana.

In Lamu, Kenya, the site of a proposed coal-fired power plant and home to a UNESCO world heritage site will host a creative cultural display and sail dhow races to draw attention to calls to the government to power up renewable energy and ensure the complete cancellation of the proposed plant and other fossil fuel prospects in Kenya.

Community representatives from the coal mining blocks in Mui basin in Kitui will hold a procession to deliver a coal “death” certificate to the Office of the Governor of Kitui to urge him to join CSOs in the call for a coal-free Kitui.

In Sasolburg, South Africa, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance will lead a parade combined with a festival and mini-exhibition juxtaposing the threat of fossil fuels with the possibility of renewable energy outside the Sasol (South African fossil energy company) plant.

In Cape Town, green energy campaigners Green Connection, 350.org and their partners and supporters will meet in front of parliament with banners and signs echoing their message that Total must stop fossil fuel exploration and exploitation, and that the government must make TotalEnergies and other fossil fuel companies pay for their role in the climate crisis.

In Benin, a renewable energy-powered festival incorporating art and activism, to create a visually captivating and engaging experience with a clear call to power up renewable energy while in the DRC’s Kinshasa and Goma cities, protests against the auctioning of oil and gas blocks in the country.

In Accra, Ekumfi, the site of a proposed coal power plant whose construction was canceled, accompanied by regional actions in other parts of the country calling on the national government to implement its renewable energy plans.

A Niger delta community meeting (baraza) in Ogoni, Nigeria, will be seeking to urge Shell to pay its dues and restore dignity to the communities affected by the Ogoni oil spill. The event will also include a solar installation exercise showcasing the possibilities presented by renewable energy.

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