Sub-Saharan renewables set to roll

Sub-Saharan Africa could see up to 1.8GW of renewable power capacity commissioned this year, more than came online in the entire 2000-13 period, a new report claims.

According to analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), investment in clean energy, excluding large hydropower, will be $5.9bn in 2014, down 5% on 2013′s figure of $6.2bn.

However, it will accelerate to $7.7bn in 2016, compared to the average $1bn annual investment seen between 2006 and 2011.

"The advance of renewable energy in Africa reflects a combination of growing local need for power, and awareness that the cost per MWh of clean options such as wind and PV has declined sharply over recent years," according to the report.

The three largest markets for utility-scale renewable power over the 2014-16 period are forecast to be South Africa, with 3.9GW of mostly wind capacity likely to be installed; Kenya with 1.4GW, mainly geothermal and wind; and Ethiopia with about 570MW, largely wind.

"Some other countries such as Nigeria are seeing ambitious plans for renewable power, but have yet to put in place a stable policy regime to reassure investors," said the report.

In July, Spain's Abengoa secured $142m from the African Development Bank towards the development of its 100MW Xina Solar One solar thermal project in South Africa, followed a month later by a $100m finance contract for a 100MW concentrating solar power plant (CSP) in the Northern Cape from the European Investment Bank.

Rooftop and other small-scale PV have the most potential for growth in Africa's towns, cities and rural areas not connected to the grid, concluded the analysis