Berkeley study finds wind, solar could help meet Africa’s growing energy needs

Published on April 20, 2017 by Daily Energy Insider Reports

A new assessment by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) concluded that wind and solar energy could be economically and environmentally competitive options that could help meet Africa’s rising energy demand.

African countries may have to triple their electricity output by 2030 if they are to meet growing energy needs. Fossil fuels and hydropower are common approaches in some areas, but the study found that wind and solar potential is several times higher than the expected demand in 2030.

“Wind and solar have historically been dismissed as too expensive and temporally variable, but one of our key findings is that there are plentiful wind and solar resources in Africa that are both low-impact and cost-effective,” Ranjit Deshmukh, one of the lead researchers of the study, said.

Another main finding of the study was that energy trade and grid connections between countries could result in lower system costs and impacts. Strategically siting wind farms to manage peak demand can lower costs even further, the assessment found.

“Together, international energy trade and strategic siting can enable African countries to pursue ‘no-regrets’ wind and solar that can compete with conventional generation technologies like coal and hydropower,” Grace C. Wu, the other lead author on the study, said. “No-regrets options are low-cost, low-impact, and low-risk.”

The article, titled “Strategic Siting and Regional Grid Interconnections Key to Low-Carbon Futures in African Countries,” appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“As a region, Africa is in an unparalleled energy crisis rife with electricity deficiency, lack of access, and high costs,” Wu said. “How African countries and the international community tackle this crisis in the coming decades will have large social, environmental, and climate implications.”