Dr Bob van der Zwaan
- Sustainable Energy Technology
In this study, undertaken in the context of the TRANSRISK project, we have investigated the prospects for the large-scale use of low-emission energy technologies in Africa. Many African countries have recently experienced substantial economic growth and aim at fulfilling much of the energy needs associated with continuing along paths of economic expansion by exploiting their large domestic potentials of renewable forms of energy. Important benefits of the abundant renewable energy resources in Africa are that they allow for stimulating economic development, increasing energy access and alleviating poverty, while simultaneously avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases. In this study we have analysed what the likely energy demand in Africa could be until 2050, and have inspected multiple scenarios for the concomitant levels of greenhouse gas emissions and emission intensities. We used the TIAM-ECN model for our study, which enables detailed energy systems research through a technology-rich cost-minimisation procedure. The results from our analysis fully support an Africa-led effort to substantially enhance the use of the continent’s renewable energy potential. But they suggest that the current aim of achieving 300 GW of additional renewable electricity generation capacity by 2030 is perhaps unrealistic, even given high GDP and population growth: we find figures that are close to half this level. On the other hand, we find evidence for leap-frogging opportunities, by which renewable energy options rather than fossil fuels could constitute the cost-optimal solution to fulfil most of Africa’s growing energy requirements. An important benefit of leap-frogging is that it avoids an ultimately expensive fossil fuels lock-in that would fix the carbon footprint of the continent until at least the middle of the century.