- Green Rising
- If Africa is a solar superpower in the making, who will be the winners?
If Africa is a solar superpower in the making, who will be the winners?
Africa has 60% of the planet’s solar potential but only 1% of its installed capacity. The latest announcements at COP will change that. But the likely winners are not the usual suspects.
1. The sun shines in unexpected places (transforming the solar sector)
Sunshine is not distributed equally across Africa, and nor is the solar sector.
Status quo: Current African leadership in installed solar capacity is closely related to prosperity (and diminished by domestic oil production).
Economic giants South Africa and Egypt are at the top (1,700 - 6,000 MW).
Followed by development leaders Algeria and Morocco (450 - 850 MW).
Green champions Kenya and Ethiopia come next (250 - 300 MW).
The continent’s top oil producers, Angola and Nigeria, are missing.
Coming shakeup: The top leaders have seen strong growth. South African installations quadrupled in two years, not least due to failure in traditional generation.
Yet accelerating investment in renewables, including but not limited to solar, will shift the locations of growth dramatically.
Large economies will remain large potential solar consumers, but an analysis by Green Rising forecasts shifts in regional growth rates.
New normal: Solar’s unequal distribution in Africa is likely to undergo a fundamental transformation driven by competition from cheaper (and less intermittent) renewables.
Geothermal, hydro-electric and wind generation are more cost-effective than solar.
The need to store day-time sunpower for night-time consumption makes solar costly.
Other factors: With growing investment, the relative attractiveness of solar is impacted by three other factors that have so far been overshadowed.
Europe has discovered Africa as a potential electricity exporter, favouring nations to the continent’s north.
The weaker a country’s power grid, the more attractive solar becomes… since solar can be installed at a small scale – unlike other renewables.
Photovoltaic strength, i.e. sunlight, varies regionally, and with it the cost-effectiveness of solar.
The result: Growth in solar installations will be strongest in places with poor grids, uninterrupted sunlight and ideally the potential to export power.
Everywhere else will be better off using other forms of renewables – if they are available.
Our analysis: We mapped these factors across the continent, including the country-by-country potential of competitor tech to solar (wind, hydro and geothermal).
The data shows the future spread of solar is less influenced by economic prosperity.
At least at grid-level, though household installations will remain closely correlated.
New growth: Solar-specific announcements at COP (see below) already reflect this, likely accelerated by new funding sources, also launched at COP.
The winners: Saharan countries score highly thanks to uninterrupted sunlight and proximity to European export markets.
But current leaders Egypt and Morocco lag as they have fine grids already as well as access to cheaper alternative renewables.
Their more dysfunctional neighbours could see faster growth by contrast.
Falling behind: East Africa is exploiting ever more of its plentiful wind and geothermal potential, and is improving its grids. That makes solar ever less attractive (see map above).
Regional shifts: South Africa is solar king now. But southern promise is strongest in Namibia.
It has an extraordinary photovoltaic score while investing heavily in green hydrogen, with the potential to export power even if it is far from Europe.
Deal examples: The shifting solar landscape shows up in the latest announcements.
On November 17, Nigeria sealed a $2.2 billion solar agreement with Sun Africa, bringing in 961 MWp of solar power and 455 MWh of battery storage.
On the same day, CAR unveiled its second solar power plant, Danzi, a 25 MWp capacity plant with 47,000 solar panels installed by the Chinese company Shanxi Construction Investment Group, financed by a World Bank loan.
Danish developer GreenGo Energy seeks approval for a 60 GW wind-solar hybrid in Mauritania, featuring 35 GW capacity for green hydrogen production.
Sunny potential: The Sahara absorbs sunlight equivalent to 100 times of all human power consumption.
A single Algerian solar panel generates three times more electricity than a German one.
Other drivers: The growth of solar in Africa and elsewhere is due to technical breakthroughs.
2. A summary of how Africa fared at COP so far
COP28 is halfway done, but the big decisions in Dubai have yet to be made.
Organisers claim they mobilised more than $83 billion globally so far.
But will fossil fuel be phased out? Dunno. (UAE is a Formula 1 host, pictured above)
To see: It’s unclear if this COP will be planet-changing or how it’ll affect Africa.
So far, we’ve mostly seen individual pledges & announcements; some are significant.
Taking stock: Our focus this week is to list (in as concise a form as possible) new money pledged directly for or aimed at Africa.
Reality check: Some COP pledges are officially tied to UN institutions. Others are merely timed to coincide with the event and not necessarily bankable.
“Often, these are exercises in what you could call 'fire and forget'," warned Marc Vanheukelen, a former senior EU official.
Top Africa announcements
Africa Climate Risk Insurance Facility for Adaptation (ACRIFA): $1 billion insurance facility created by AfDB to protect millions of farmers in Africa.
Alliance for Green Infrastructure in Africa (AGIA): $175m pledged to scale up financing for green infrastructure projects across the continent.
Africa-EU Green Energy Initiative: €20 billion announced for the Team Europe Initiative, to increase access to green energy in Africa.
Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Consortium: Nine African countries joined the global battery energy storage consortium.
Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Initiative: $10 billion initiative launched to tackle food security amid the climate crisis in Africa.
Re-Gain: $100 million financing initiative launched by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and AGRA to improve food security in Africa.
Africa Green Industrialisation Initiative: Launched by President Ruto, details to come.
Africa Finance Corporation: $350 million long-term line of credit for infrastructure signed with the African Development Bank
African country announcements
Kenya signed agreements for seven green projects worth $4.5 billion.
Egypt signed three agreements in green industrialisation projects.
Angola will develop a 150 MW solar project with Masdar.
Democratic Republic of the Congo announced a plan for “People, Forests and Nature” including $62 million of initial funding. France committed $60 million in a forest finance package. DRC also received $40 million to evaluate natural capital for biodiversity and carbon crediting. Rawbank announced $20m for biodiversity & clean energy.
Ghana: UAE will contribute $100 million on climate projects, with an initial $30 million investment in the official “Resilient Ghana” plan. An extra $80 million from governments and private sector initiatives was also pledged.
Madagascar received $8.8 million for forest carbon credits.
Mauritania signed a Clean Energy Cooperation MoU with the US Department of Energy.
Mozambique: The World Meteorological Organisation granted Mozambique $7.5 million for early warning and weather observation systems.
Sierra Leone signed an agreement for the first wind farm in the country.
Senegal: EAIF committed €11.5 million to West Africa’s first solar and battery energy storage system project.
Zambia will issue its first green bond by year-end via Copperbelt Energy Corp.
Nigeria announced a plan to roll out 100 electric buses.
South Africa announced a national energy transition plan.
3. Q&A: Climate leader with answers
Frannie Leautier is the CEO of SouthBridge Investments and a former Vice-President at the World Bank. She is the co-author of the newly launched book “Financing Nature.” SouthBridge announced investment in DRC and Ghana at COP28.
Q: What’s the climate-change book you would most recommend? A: Not a book on climate change, as such, but still an excellent book for thinking about the world we live in is “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.
Q: If you were to pick one African country to visit because of its impressive green agenda, which would it be? A: I would have to say Rwanda, particularly their forestry. They've done tremendously well on greening investing and preparing the country for a climate future.
Q: What’s your earliest personal memory of the climate crisis? A: When I was in secondary school in Korogwe Tanzania, some very heavy rains washed away an entire series of villages and many people died. I was about 13 years old and we were asked to go and help dig people and animals out. A very personal, very powerful memory.
Q: What’s the most recent change you’ve achieved in your own life to address the climate crisis? A: I gave up having cars six years ago, so I don't own one. I walk or take public transportation. Or if I have to, then I take electric Ubers, unless they're not available. Secondly, my home works on clean renewable energy. And then I don't eat meat, which saves a lot of carbon.
4. Media monitoring
Alliance: Acumen got the biggest global climate fund to back its $250 million initiative for off-grid solar power in Africa.
Credit: South African asset manager STANLIB aims to raise $1 billion by end of 2028 for energy transition projects.
Lead team: LeapFrog, Temasek, and EIB pledged a $500m investment in Green Solutions in Africa and Emerging Asia.
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Thanks to the Green Rising team for putting this together.