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Solar Power in Africa is a Game Changer

Solar Power in Africa is a Game Changer
The introduction of cheap solar power systems in remote and not so remote parts of Africa is changing the energy production model of Africa. This is having knock on effects on the infrastructural and political structures of many Third World countries.

Nico Tyabji, an associate at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, where he coordinates research on Africa for the Global Climatescope project joins the programme to talk about this new phenomenon.

How important is solar panel energy in Africa?

Nico Trabji: I think the needs and the place of energy in development is becoming more central than ever and so for instance, we have the sustainable energy week in New York next. I think the rise of clean energy is a game changer, and we are looking at an industry of about $300 billion of new investment a year. China has been the biggest market for wind and solar, and the deployment of both technologies several years now. Those emerging market countries are already embracing a new clean energy transition.

Should western energy companies still push for expanding hydrocarbon-based energy in Africa?

Nico Tyabji: There are certainly a lot of resource extractions from these countries that supply the, let’s say, industrialized nations, but something that we see recently is investment in developing countries in clean energy, and I think there are some very exciting opportunities here. A lot of Sub-Saharan African countries are facing real under-investment in their electricity generating sectors, often characterized by old inefficient state utilities. The new energy technologies are allowing for new policy frameworks, or prompting new policy frameworks to come through that can promote the build-out of wind turbine facilities and solar farms.

I think is a very pivotal time now and wider questions of how we do energy development are being discussed. On the other side of globalization, we’ve seen a very dramatic reduction of the solar power, around 70% over the last five years. And that’s really important because there were some early movers in Europe, as in Germany that put a lot of investment and innovation in the technologies, and then China has become the mass producer of solar. At the moment, we are in a situation where the UK, has far more installed solar capacity than the whole of Sub Saharan Africa, and of course, it is much less favorable on the sunshine level.

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