Though sunny Africa is currently home to far fewer solar power installations than are found in the soggy UK, an International Energy Agency (IEA) report says a solar boom, intersecting with a surging and increasingly urban population, “will ignite an energy-hungry industrial revolution” powered almost entirely by renewables.
“The report forecasts that Africa’s appetite for energy will grow at double the rate of the global average in the coming decade, as the continent overtakes China and India as the most populated region in the world,” reports The Guardian. With the population expected “to grow to more than two billion people by 2040, a rise of 800 million from today, or the population equivalent of the U.S. and Europe combined,” the IEA says people will “turn to cities and towns at a rate never seen before, where the demand for new houses and infrastructure will ignite an energy-hungry industrial revolution.”
This time round, however, the revolution will be clean and green.
Describing the coming nexus between solar power and urbanization as Africa’s “unique opportunity” to “leapfrog the fossil fuel dependency of other industrialized regions and host the first economic transformation that did not contribute to the climate crisis,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol declared himself “optimistic about Africa’s energy future.” He added that “I have great expectations for the energy industry in the years to come, both in terms of bringing energy access to Africa’s people, but also driving economic growth.”
Birol “urged Africa’s leaders to take advantage of the natural resources available through solar power generation, and the mining of raw minerals needed to make electric and hydrogen batteries, which are in high demand across the world,” The Guardian adds.
While contending that natural gas will likely “be needed to support Africa’s heavy industries as they build the towns and cities needed to house the continent’s growing population,” Birol said the resulting emissions will be “peanuts compared to other countries in the world which are using fossil fuels such as coal for energy”.
He added that, “while Africa does not contribute to climate change, the continent is on the front line of its potential effects, including droughts. Africa is perhaps the most innocent continent in terms of its contributions to climate change, but they will be the victims.”