IRENA Estimates Africa’s Renewable Energy Potential

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology have published a joint working paper examining the potential for renewable power generation based on resource availability in Africa.

The paper, titled ‘Estimating the Renewable Energy Potential in Africa: A GIS-based approach,’ presents a methodology for: quantifying the power generation potential for solar and wind energy resources in Africa; estimating the bioenergy potential from first-generation biofuel crops, including sugarcane, jatropha and soybean; and translating physical resource potential into power generation potential expressed in gigawatts (GW) and gigawatt-hours (GWh).

The approach, based on Geographic Information System (GIS) data, can be tailored to any country, region or other geographical area.

The research: outlines the maximum technical potential for solar photovoltaic (PV), concentrated solar power (CSP), wind power and bioenergy output in all continental African countries; points to renewable energy hotspots; and indicates which technologies are most suitable for each country. The objective of this research is to help policy makers develop effective policies and incentives, and energy planners to incorporate renewable energy into their plans.

The paper explains that each country and sub-region in Africa must develop the most suitable strategies based on available resources, and that the potential for each renewable energy type varies widely by country and region. Thus, interconnection, coordinated planning, information exchange and pooling resources within the five African sub-regions can maximize gains from renewable energy resources.

While the report does not analyze specific renewable energy technologies, it illustrates their potential based on available resources and geographic constraints, and aims to help stimulate further research into specific technologies. The paper finds that, while wind energy has the largest regional disparities, solar resources have significant potential across much of Africa, but with differences depending on whether PV or CSP plants are used. Bioenergy potential is highest in the equatorial regions and lowest in North Africa, and although bioenergy crops could be attractive where large areas of land are still available for cultivation, caution must be taken in this regard given existing food insecurities and a growing population. [IRENA Abstract] [Publication: Estimating the Renewable Energy Potential in Africa: A GIS-based Approach]