African leaders enlist renewables to build future of energy resilience

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African leaders will use IRENA’s pre-existing Clean Energy Corridors scheme to structure the roll-out of renewables alongside Africa’s East, West and South. Image credit: ENGIE

Global renewable experts will steer the roll-out of large volumes of solar and others in Africa, in a bid to help the continent tap into its vast green energy resources to power its response to COVID-19.

Renewables will be enlisted to energise African hospitals, medical gear, water pumping and other critical anti-pandemic functions, under a partnership between the African Union Commission (AUC) and global green energy body IRENA.

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The AUC – the body governing a union between all 55 African states – said the time has come to “fast-track” energy access in the continent, where 600 million people remain disconnected despite the abundance of renewable resources.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that energy is critical for all spheres of life and is now proving to be a matter of survival,” said H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, the AUC’s Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, after an online discussion with IRENA head Francesco La Camera.

Together, African leaders will use IRENA’s pre-existing Clean Energy Corridors scheme to structure the roll-out of renewables alongside Africa’s East, West and South. The partners will seek to strengthen power markets and promote cross-border trade of renewable power.

The 10GW schemes for a solar-powered Africa

At 21,000-plus cases reported continent-wide as of 19 April 2020, the COVID-19 virus has expanded across Africa in recent weeks, even if confirmed infections remain far behind those of Europe, North America and Asia. 

The gradual onset of the pandemic has seen some of the continent’s leading economies embed solar in their response. As documented by PV Tech’s weekly COVID-19 trackers, authorities in Nigeria, Somaliland and others have already acted to install PV panels atop hospitals and other facilities.

African policymakers’ focus on solar predates the pandemic itself, however. Last year alone, this publication took stock of the progress by schemes including a 10GW solar corridor in West Africa, a GCF-backed raft of PV programmes and the Sahel’s ‘Desert to Power’ initiative.

Backed by Sahel leaders last September, the latter of the three programmes will seek to unlock another 10GW solar across the semi-arid African region. As examined by a PV Tech Power feature, the goal is to ensure renewables can replace the deforestation-driving use of trees for fuel.

Attention is also turning to solar-plus-storage mini-grids, a segment the World Bank believes Africa could lead on and use to provide energy access to millions. Last June, the global body singled out Nigeria and Senegal as the countries witnessing the most planning applications by that point.

PV Tech has set up a dedicated tracker to map out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting solar supply chains worldwide. You can read the latest updates here.

If you have a COVID-19 statement to share or a story on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business anywhere in the world, do get in touch at [email protected] or [email protected].

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