Energy Policy Scenarios to 2050
The African region rates itself low on the current state of achieving the 3 A's, and there are several reasons behind this assessment. Despite the fact that Africa is rich in natural resources, it is still the least developed region in the world overall. Three significant factors are the lack of investments in infrastructure, the lack of capacity in institutional capabilities, and a low capacity of the private sector to provide energy services. Rapid changes in energy prices and nascent markets represent a burden not only to the economies of the countries on both macro and micro levels, but also to the daily lives of the inhabitants, especially those living in remote areas.
There is no doubt that securing energy supplies on an affordable, accessible, available, and environmentally acceptable basis is one of the key elements for sustainable development in Africa over the coming decades. Moreover, cooperation among its regions on the one hand, as well as between the continent's countries and the whole world on the other, will play a significant role in realising the goals of reaching a minimum level of prosperity for Africans.
For Africa, only about one-third of its population has access to modern energy services (mostly in the northern African countries and in South Africa). The remaining two-thirds, representing a largely rural population, do not have the same level of access.
Oil currently dominates the primary energy mix and will likely remain the prime source of commercial energy for some time to come. Cleaner fossil fuels and large-scale regional hydropower (e.g., the Inga hydro projects on the Congo River) are realistic options for achieving energy security, sustainable economic development, and access to modern energy services. However, developing the enormous energy potential of Africa, thus improving the domestic supply of energy, requires huge investments. Energy efficiency measures in end-use, and improvements in production, transmission, and distribution of electricity in most of the countries are not being realised. This is clearly demonstrated in measures of energy intensity: the average energy intensity in Africa is 21 MJ/$(ppp), more than double the world average (about 10 MJ/$(ppp).The main drivers of growing demand for energy in Africa are population growth, economic development, and improvement in standards of living. Nevertheless, energy supply, based on fossil fuels, is not corresponding to the demand, and thus poses problems.
Energy-related carbon emissions in African countries come mainly from thermal-power generation, road transportation, and direct burning of traditional biomass. Carbon emissions from commercial energy vary greatly among sub-regions. For example, North and Southern Africa emit more carbon dioxide than the other sub-regions, because their electricity generation from fossil fuels contributes almost 90% to the total.
Africa possesses significant resources of hydropower. Estimated potentials amount to more than one million GWh/year (economically feasible), 78% of which is concentrated in three countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Cameroon). A key challenge is large-scale hydropower flooding potentially valuable rainforest and agricultural land, requiring the relocation of people.
Modern renewable energies, such as wind, solar, and biomass, are valuable alternatives for supplying electricity to rural populations. Wind power is becoming increasingly competitive in Africa (as elsewhere), and certain applications of solar thermal energy for water heating (solar water heaters), water pumping, cooking, and crop drying, in addition to photovoltaic applications, are being introduced gradually.
Desertification and deforestation are also of great concern, exacerbated by intense use of traditional biomass, mainly fuel wood, for cooking and heating by most of the poor households.
Public awareness and concern for the environment has to become an important factor among decision makers in their strategies to evolve toward a sustainable path. With that perspective, more efficient, modern, and environmentally sound technologies should be introduced (by leapfrogging to the best technologies of the developed world) through technology transfer and deployment. For example, the use of cleaner fossil fuel technologies, and biofuels for road transport, could contribute greatly to a reduction in emissions.