World Energy Council survey reveals the issues likely to impact Africa's energy agenda

African energy leaders see energy prices, energy poverty, and instability in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to be the most important critical uncertainties in Africa’s energy sector, according to the newly released African survey of the World Energy Issues Monitor, published by the World Energy Council.

The survey is the first ever WEC assessment of the outlook on the African energy sector amongst African energy leaders.  It provides an insight into the issues affecting energy in the African continent, identifying the key uncertainties while highlighting the areas where action is required to ensure the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all.
The survey also reveals that renewable energy, energy efficiency, and regional interconnection are considered important issues that could make a strong impact, but further action is required to realise their potential. These areas are facing constraints of investment, suitable social and environmental framework, political stability, and bold economic reforms. This is the case for large-scale hydropower projects, a key asset for Africa, which are being held back.

Innovation such as smart grids and sustainable cities are of interest, but in order to progress towards these cleaner energy systems, the issues of talent (technology transfer, capacity building and policymaking), governance, and corruption need to be taken in hand.

Dr Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council, says:

“Africa shares many of the concerns of the global energy leaders’ community, including volatile energy prices and the uncertainty created by the developments in the MENA region.  Another major uncertainty is the gloomy economic outlook which has dented investor confidence in financing capital-intensive projects across the energy sector, especially in renewable energy where small and medium companies prevail.”

The survey results will be showcased at the Africa Energy Indaba event, to take place this week (21-23 February) in Johannesburg, South Africa and will be used as basis for dialogue on the road towards sustainable energy for all.

The assessment is part of a series of new regional surveys also covering Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America which gauge the concerns specific to those regions.  The surveys, part of the WEC’s annual World Energy Issues Monitor, are annual barometers of the issues that energy leaders perceive to affect global and regional energy agendas.

The survey reveals that energy poverty is considered a more prominent issue in Africa than in any other region due to the high levels of social poverty and limited access to modern energy.  Nearly 60% of Africa’s population lack access to electricity.  In Sub-Saharan Africa about 70% of the population do not have electricity; of this, some 80% live in rural areas.

Africa is also the world region showing the highest interest in the energy-water nexus.  Energy leaders have expressed the concern that if power plants do not use dry cooling, then there would not be enough water to sustain both the population and power plants.

On these challenges, Dr Frei comments:

“There is no single ‘silver bullet’ solution for the varied nature of Africa’s energy challenges. Each African country needs to find its own way of balancing the trade-offs between the three dimensions of the ‘energy trilemma’ to ensure security of supply, affordability of prices, and respect for the environment.”

On the survey, Professor Abubakar Sambo, Vice Chair of the WEC African Programme Committee, comments:

“The World Energy Council’s energy issues map should be a key input for all nations as they consider their national energy development strategies, and specifically when deciding on the projects to be developed in the short, medium and long term.”

Dr Christoph Frei adds:

“Knowing what keeps energy leaders awake at night is a crucial starting point to tackling those challenges.  Our annual World Energy Issues Monitor will be a useful tool for this as governments and energy experts set out their countries’ priorities.”