African countries need to invest four times more in electricity than they are investing now in order to expand reliable supply to the whole continent, the International Energy Agency has warned.
In its Africa Energy Outlook, the authority says the continent is experiencing a population boom that will drive a strong increase in energy demand. However, current investment rates are too low to ensure adequate access to electricity to this growing population.
According to the IEA, energy demand in Africa will rise by 60 percent to some 1,320 million tons of oil equivalent by 2040. The continent’s population, meanwhile, will reach 2 billion before that year and continue growing.
“We’re talking about 2.5% of GDP that should go into the power sector,” said the IEA’s Chief Energy Modeller, Laura Cozzi, as quoted by Reuters. “India’s done it over the past 20 years. China has done it. So it’s something that is doable.”
What’s more, Africa has the resources to do it. The continent sits on some of the most abundant mineral resources in the world and also the greatest solar resources on the planet.
“Africa has a unique opportunity to pursue a much less carbon-intensive development path than many other parts of the world,” the IEA’s chief, Fatih Birol, said in the press release on the report. “To achieve this, it has to take advantage of the huge potential that solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas and energy efficiency offer. For example, Africa has the richest solar resources on the planet but has so far installed only 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV), which is less than 1% of global capacity.”
Currently, 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity and as many as 900 million have no access to clean cooking facilities. Unless governments take timely measures and start expanding electricity access now, these numbers will only grow in the future.