Africa can generate over 1000 GW of solar power, 110 GW of wind energy, 350 GW of hydropower, and 15 GW of geothermal power. However, all this potential remains unexplored, although solar and wind farms are becoming more affordable, with some areas keeping up with the coal-fired power plants. People who understand Africa’s economic dynamics will not be surprised with the state of affairs in Africa because this is what drives progress in this continent. Solar and wind farms produce electricity by converting solar and wind energy into a form that can enter electricity grids.

In Africa, the challenge begins with the transmission of this electricity to where it will be consumed or stored. Various African countries are not endowed with the transmission infrastructure that would facilitate large-scale installation of solar and wind energy. Moreover, companies cannot just start developing solar farms in any place because of their proximity to the transmission infrastructure. These utilities require optimum conditions to be effective.

Power Generation‘s chief executive Toby Gill stated that the problem is not strictly the production scale because some countries like Kenya have a well-structured grid. However, this well-structured grid does not facilitate the unleashing of the solar and wind energy potential in the country. Gill explained that the problem is the economic viability of these processes and the bad governance in these countries, which is characterized by corruption and embezzlement of funds.

Such characteristics hinder the utilization of the resources allocated for these projects to their maximum potential. Additionally, the cost of connecting one customer to the micro-grid is about $1000, according to Gill. Considering that an average customer pays below $2 daily for electricity, then the realization of the returns from these projects makes the energy companies reconsider where they are placing their investment.

Gill explained that the high cost of developing and installing electricity infrastructure compared to the electricity consumers’ revenue potential is what is hindering the fast growth of renewable energy projects and utilities in Africa. Nevertheless, some of these projects have been successful in other areas. The chief of Africa Group, Cecily Davis, attested to this claim in countries like Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

Davis explained that the European Union and the UK’s subsidies to ensure that they provide reliable electricity to people in remote areas have made these projects successful. Finally, there are political challenges hindering the active development of renewables in Africa. Some of these problems include establishing ambitious plans that force the countries involved to borrow loans from developed countries. These loans sequester the economic development of the countries if they are misappropriated.

By Adam