Solar panels generating energy in Monrovia, Liberia (UN Photo/Christopher Herwig)
NEW YORK –Africa is host to an abundance of natural resources, nearly as diverse in nature as the cultures that cover the vast continent. A report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), claims that a future of sustainable development, poverty eradication and universal access to energy on the continent is within reach, but depends on the creation of strategic government policies to harness the potential of countries to create green energy.
The report, entitled ‘Financing Renewable Energy in Developing Countries,’ was released in Nairobi to mark the Africa launch of the United Nations 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner chose the occasion to underline the need, and the potential, for sustainable energy in Africa.
"Some 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity - and 45 per cent of those live in Africa,” said Mr. Steiner.“Yet the Continent has abundant renewable resources that, with the right kind of public policies in place, can unlock a new development future and light up the lives and the livelihoods of millions of people."
Mr. Steiner also highlighted the important opportunity that the upcoming Rio+20 conferencerepresents for delegates to tackle issues such as fossil fuel subsidies and climate financing shortages, in order to unlock the potential for sustainable energy in Africa and other regions.
Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras)
Achieving universal access to energy is by no means a modest challenge, with many obstacles such as the cost of electricity generation and access to electricity grids standing in the way, according to the UNEP study. The report found that the power sector in Africa will need to install approximately 7,000 megawatts of new generation capacity each year to meet growing energy demands.
KandehYumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Chair of UN Energy, supports UNEP’s position that sustainable solutions can fill the gap in Africa’s energy supply.
“Developing countries, many of them growing rapidly and at large scale, have the opportunity to leapfrog conventional energy options and move directly to cleaner energy alternatives that will enhance economic and social development,” said Mr. Yumkella, adding that reaching this goal will require “action by all countries and all sectors to shape the policy and investment decisions needed for a brighter energy future.”
According to today’s report, some governments in Africa are already creating policies with favorable results. Uganda’s renewable energy policy has led to a marked increase in renewable energy activities within the private sector, and Kenya’s 2008 feed-in-tariff has increased incentives to more than double their renewable energy generation capacity.
The potential for renewable energy generation in several African countries remains under-developed however. According to the African Development Bank, Mauritania has wind energy potential that could produce up to four times its annual energy consumption, and Sudan could satisfy 90 percent of its annual energy needs through wind power.
This UNEP report is one of many being produced by UN Agencies, think-tanks, private sector alliances and civil society groups in the lead-up to Rio+20, taking place from 20-22 June, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.