Irena strives for African co-ordination

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has set in motion plans for a ‘clean energy corridor’ bringing together more than 20 east and southern African countries together in a co-ordinated effort to make a substantial shift towards renewable power generation.

“An Africa clean energy corridor could help unlock the continent’s vast renewable energy potential, which is capable of powering Africa to prosperity, “ says IRENA’s director general, Adnan  Amin.

IRENA last weekend convened a major international strategy session with stakeholders in Abu Dhabi, where it is headquartered, to discuss the most effective strategies for bringing the ambitious clean energy corridor plan into being.

Currently, Southern Africa generates more than 80% of its electricity from coal and will require new sources as demand grows by over 4% per year.  East Africa generates 60% of its electricity from gas and faces a nearly 6% yearly demand growth.

IRENA says through the interconnection of power systems, immense benefits will accrue to the participating networks by sharing reserve capacity; through having diversified markets and a wider generation mix; and by providing access to lower cost generating facilities and potentially lower tariffs.

“This approach can have far-reaching implications for a clean and secure energy future for Africa,” says IRENA.

“Lifting the African population out of energy poverty cannot be fulfilled if a business-as-usual approach is followed,” says Mosad Elmissiry, head of the energy division at New Partnership for Africa’s Development, an African Union implementing body.

“We need a drastic transformation in our approach to developing renewable energy, to be sure renewables are fully utilised.  The clean energy corridor can support and further advance the implementation of the regional and continental initiatives already on the ground for further utilization of renewables in Africa,” he says.

IRENA has released the first two of a five-part series of studies on regional planning for renewables generation in Africa – one covering the West African and the other the Southern African power pools.  Further reports will follow on renewable energy planning and prospects for East, North and Central Africa.

“The energy systems of many African countries are dominated by fossil fuels, making them vulnerable to price and supply volatility,” says Amin. “Regional and intra-continental power systems integrating high shares of renewables can provide the least-costly options for unlocking Africa’s huge renewable energy potential.”