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Occasional  Paper 10: Renewable Energy Technologies in Africa - An Energy Training Course Handbook

Edited by

Mr. Stephen Karekezi,  Ms. Waeni Kithyoma & Mr. Lugard Majoro


Executive Summary

Africa has substantial new and renewable energy resources: biomass is available in almost all countries in the region while hydro-electricity potential exists in all countries except Djibouti.  Solar energy is abundant in all countries and wind energy, exploitable at 3m/s, is available in most countries.  Geothermal energy, with exploitable potential estimated at 9,000MW, is distributed in 15 countries. 

Despite this rich resource base, biomass has continued to dominate the energy sector in Eastern and Southern Africa.  Biomass forms a substantial portion of total energy consumption in most countries in the region.  This is mainly due to the fact that the majority of the population, especially in rural areas, still rely on inefficient traditional biomass energy technologies. 

Eastern and Southern Africa could eschew the traditional energy-intensive and environmentally harmful modernization path of the North and develop an ecologically sound path to sustainable development by investing in modern renewable energy.  It is argued that the modular nature of renewable energy technologies (RETs) could allow even the poorest countries in the region to begin a phased energy investment programme that would not strain its national financial resources or draw funds away from other pressing basic needs such as nutrition, health, shelter and education needs.

The prospects of RETs development in Africa are good.  Although there has been limited success, in a growing number of instances substantial numbers of RETs have been disseminated in the region.  Numerous improved stove programmes have been introduced in the region with positive results.  Wind pumps for water pumping are being considered for areas with sufficient wind potential (3m/s), while hydropower has been harnessed substantially.  Geothermal power has been exploited in Kenya with promising results.  Co-generation in Mauritius has experienced remarkable success.

Therefore, it is important that the factors leading to success in the aforementioned cases are carefully analysed for possible replication in other countries in the region, in order to realise improved dissemination and use of renewable energy.

Despite recognition that they are an important source of energy for the region, and the substantial amount of national and international resources allocated to their development, some RETs have not realised widespread success.  A case in point is solar photovoltaics, which have attracted substantial interest and investment in the region.  Almost every country in the region has had a solar PV project.  This substantial investment and emphasis on solar PV, however, has not been matched by increased access to modern energy.  This is evident in the very low rural electrification levels common in the region.

PVs largely benefit the non-poor for reasons of cost and operational complexity.  Second, the low power applications of PV are rarely an important source of income and jobs to the users.  Thirdly, the emphasis on PV has taken resources away from promising energy alternatives that can generate income, create jobs and establish sustainable energy micro-enterprises in many parts of Africa.  Examples include solar water heaters, wind pumps, small/micro hydro and a whole raft of biomass energy options.

In line with AFREPREN/FWDs commitment to the initiation of long-term energy training and capacity building programmes, an Energy Training Workshop on Renewables was organised from 28th August to 1st September, 2000.  The five-day workshop, which included a field-visit to a local wind pump manufacturer, covered the following areas:

  • Introduction to the fundamentals of key renewable energy technologies;

  • Review of RETs dissemination in the region;

  • Discussion of country case studies and their relevance to countries in the region; and

  • Analysis of factors affecting the development of the technologies.

During the workshop, papers on the following renewable energy technologies were presented:

  • Large-scale biomass cogeneration

  • Solar thermal

  • Solar photovoltaic

  • Wind generators

  • Wind pump

  • Small hydro

Each of the papers presented was discussed during group sessions with the aim of addressing factors that affect the promotion and dissemination of RETs in Africa.  These factors were:

  • Institutional development and potential for integration into centralised energy systems.

  • Financing and economic issues, and potential for income generation and jobs creation.

  • Organization, management and maintenance.

  • Human resource development and retention.

  • Equity, gender and environment.

The participants proposed possible areas of study to improve the dissemination of the technologies.  They also proposed policy measures aimed at further developing RETs in the region, which included the following:

  • De-emphasis of solar PVs in future renewable energy investments and promotion of other low-cost RETs with higher potential for generating incomes and creating jobs.

  • Involvement of key stakeholders in energy planning.

  • Enactment of legislation for the uptake of technologies, e.g. the use of solar water heaters in hotels and housing complexes.

  • Provision of loans with long repayment periods to RETs manufacturers and consumers.

  • Public awareness campaigns for policy makers and potential financiers.

  • Regular upgrading of qualifications and skills of RETs artisans in order to capture improvements in the technology.

  • Legislation to ensure proper disposal of waste products from RETs (e.g. batteries for PV systems)

  • Increased emphasis on gender analysis of RETs community projects as a prerequisite for funding, to ensure balanced participation of men and women

Chapter 1 of these proceedings provides the background and objectives of the meeting.  It also includes a list of the participants who attend the seminar, their countries of origin and the institutional affiliation.  Chapters 2-9 contain the papers presented at the seminar.  Chapter 10 outlines the group discussion issues, as well as seminar conclusions and recommendations.

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