\”Less than a third of the sub-Saharan population has access to electricity, and around 600,000 premature deaths are caused each year by household air pollution resulting from the use of polluting fuels for cooking and lighting. Solving the issue is a fundamental prerequisite for unleashing sub-Saharan Africa’s economic potential. Given the magnitude of the challenge, only a joint effort involving sub-Saharan African countries and international public and private parties would pave the way to a solution. ….
\”Electrification rates in sub-Saharan African countries average 35 percent … The situation is even starker in rural areas, where the average electrification rate in sub-Saharan Africa stands at 16 percent … Furthermore, the number of people living without electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is rising, as ongoing electrification efforts are outpaced by rapid population growth. … In sub-Saharan Africa, average electricity consumption per capita is 201 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, compared to 4,200 kWh in South Africa and 1,500 kWh in North African countries. The situation is even worse in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa with access to electricity, where electricity consumption per capita remains even below 100 kWh per year.\”
For comparison, per capital electricity consumption in high-income countries around the world is about 9,000 kWh. Here\’s a heat map showing the share of population with access to electricity around the world.
Perhaps just as disturbing as the lack of electricity across many areas of Africa is that even the seemingly aggressive plans in place–essentially, to triple electricity capacity by 2030–would lead to less than half of what is needed to provide provide full access to Africa\’s population at that time (leaving aside the question of what quantity will be available on a per capita basis). Tagliapietra writes:
\”The jump in capacity [forecast for 2030] is projected to be based mainly on hydropower (35 percent of total capacity in 2030) and gas (27 percent), plus oil (16 percent), coal (10 percent), solar photovoltaic (6 percent), geothermal (2 percent), biomass (2 percent) and wind (2 percent). Such a development lacks ambition, both quantitatively and qualitatively. From the quantitative perspective, reaching a level of total electrical capacity of 167 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 would not be sufficient to ensure access to electricity to all people in sub-Saharan Africa. The electrical capacity of sub-Saharan Africa would need to be expanded up to 400GW by 2030 in order to guarantee energy access to all.\”
Of course, there are arguments about how this expansion of electrical capacity should happen. There are on-grid methods like expanding hydropower, which does not emit greenhouse gases, but if done at large scale implies large dams that pose their own environmental and social challenges There are proposals for widespread use of off-grid or mini-grid sources, from renewables to diesel generators. I\’m open to all kinds of proposals, as long as the plausible addition to electrical capacity is genuinely large–a multiple of existing levels.