While Africa lags behind in the adoption of many technologies, the adoption of clean energy shows that the continent is awakening and keeping pace with global trends.
As the world moves to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), Africa which is the least contributor is moving towards ensuring that its pollution quota goes down as economies advance.
Globally, GHG emissions have been rising despite the intervention of a wide array of multilateral institutions and national policies aimed at mitigation with varying levels of ambition.
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), emissions reached a global total of almost 50 gigatonnes CO2-equivalents per year (GtCO2eq/yr) in 2016. Of this, 73 per cent of GHG emissions emanated from the energy sector, 18 per cent from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU). Of this, 12 per cent came from agriculture and 6 per cent from industrial processes while 3 per cent came from waste management activities.
The energy sector has been a major contributor to this growth, with its share of emissions increasing from 66 per cent in 1990 to 73 per cent in 2016.
Of the other sectors, agriculture and waste had relatively minor increases, while industrial processes increased significantly – doubling its relative weight (from 3 per cent in 1990 to 6 per cent in 2016). Over the same period, AFOLU sectors decreased significantly in relevance, falling from 27 per cent in 1990 to 18 per cent in 2016.
For low-income countries- most of which are in Africa- the largest part of GHG emissions comes from AFOLU while in high-income countries, GHG emissions are dominated by sources related to energy supply and industry.
Historically, GHG emissions on the African continent are dominated by the AFOLU sectors, represented by the difference between carbon sequestered through photosynthetic (forests and savannas) and non-photosynthetic processes (soils and water) (sinks), and carbon released into the atmosphere as a result of agricultural practices, deforestation, fires and forest degradation.
Combined, they represented 56 per cent of the total emissions in 2016. There is, however, a significant difference between the north African region and Sub-Saharan Africa: in the former, AFOLU contributes with a small, negative balance (more sequestration than emissions), in the latter, and even though its relative contribution has decreased thanks to Land Use Change and Forestry (LUCF) activities, it still represents the majority of emissions (56 per cent of the African total in 2016 from 71 per cent in 1990).
While the African energy sector is a small contributor to GHG emissions, it nonetheless has taken the lead in ensuring that future energy generation is clean with minimal contribution to the accumulation of GHgs in the atmosphere.
Many countries are embracing a shift towards clean energy generation through the participation of different players and stakeholders.
In Kenya, for instance, Total has been shifting to clean energy at its outlets to lower the costs that come with energy consumption. The flip side is that while the reliance on the grid decreases, the costs decrease as well. The biggest winner in all this is the environment.
Another partnership in Kenya is by Econet Energy Kenya, a subsidiary in Kenya of Distributed Power Africa (DPA) which has signed a deal with Électricité De France (EDF), a low-carbon electricity company to develop and deploy renewable energy solutions for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers in Kenya.
EDF has announced that it has acquired a 50 per cent stake in Econet Energy Kenya which marks the first achievement of an industrial partnership in order to seize the opportunities of the solar self-consumption market on the African continent.
DPA is a company of the pan-African group Econet Global Limited.
Econet Energy Kenya has been deploying an innovative solar self-consumption offer on roofs for Kenyan industrial and commercial players. This offer combines the supply, installation and maintenance of photovoltaic equipment with a financing solution. It allows customers to benefit from autonomous low-carbon electricity production and thus reduce their environmental footprint.
On its portfolio are already secured ten projects with leading Kenyan companies and already implemented its solutions in the health sector. Part of the companies that have been onboarded include Liquid Telecom Data Centre in Nairobi and Aga Khan Hospital Mombasa and most recently commissioned Ecobank Solar Power rollout to be activated across 7 branches in the country.
Beyond those projects, Econet Energy Kenya intends to target the banking sector, clinics, touristic resorts, small industries and data centres. The solar self-consumption market in Africa is growing, particularly in Kenya which is the third market on the continent after South Africa and Nigeria.
Econet Energy Kenya will continue to benefit from DPA’s commercial dynamism and leading position in the solar self-consumption market in Africa, whereas EDF will bring its technical expertise from design to the latest energy monitoring services.
This is a first step before considering extending the cooperation to other promising countries already identified in Africa. DPA is present in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe with a portfolio of 39 MW of projects signed and under deployment.
With its footprint in 15 African countries, including Kenya with off-grid solar systems, EDF is opening new markets to DPA in the perspective of joint development.
DPA CEO, Norman Moyo says that energy is the next biggest infrastructure opportunity in the journey to transform the continent’s fortune. He adds that DPA & EDF are both bringing a deep understanding of the energy sector in Africa and globally.
The two companies’ partnership is expected to accelerate the rollout of energy in East Africa which will significantly impact the continent’s economies.
EDF’s Senior Vice President Africa, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Division Valerie Levkov noted that this is a new and innovative line of business for EDF in Kenya.
She adds that the joint-venture aims to offer technical excellence and a quality customer relationship.
This new business line adds to the off-grid solutions EDF is already deploying in Kenya and extends the use of solar energy to commercial and industrial players.
Africa remains the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is already experiencing temperature increases of approximately 0.7°C over much of the continent and predictions show that temperatures will rise further. Thus, Africa is facing a wide range of impacts including increased drought and floods. In the near future, climate change will contribute to decreases in food production, floods and inundation of its coastal zones and deltas, the spread of waterborne diseases and risk of malaria, and changes in natural ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
Any move to mitigate these effects on the continent is a welcome development that will help curb suffering on the continent of 1.2 billion people.