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Africa could get 80% of its power from renewables in 2040, joint study finds

A groundbreaking joint study by the University of Tübingen, the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, the University of Osnabrück, and the University of Rwanda reveals that Africa has the potential to generate 80% of its energy from renewable sources by 2040. Published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, the study emphasizes the abundant solar, wind, and water resources available on the continent. Lead author Rebecca Peters highlights the possibility for many African countries to bypass fossil fuels with the right initiatives.

The study, under the supervision of Professor Christiane Zarfl and conducted in collaboration with partners in Germany and Rwanda, compiled a comprehensive database of existing and planned renewable energy power plants in Africa. Peters evaluated scientific studies on the subject, pointing out that falling production costs for solar and wind energy enable a substantial expansion of renewable energies on the continent.

Despite the potential, Africa’s energy needs are projected to surge, with two-thirds of the population lacking electricity access and a rapid population growth rate of 2.6% in sub-Saharan Africa. The study advocates for decentralized solar and wind power plants, eliminating the need for expensive grid expansion to rural areas.

However, the study urges caution in the unchecked expansion of hydroelectricity, emphasizing the irreversible environmental impact and forced relocations associated with extensive dam construction. Professor Dr Klement Tockner, co-author and Director General of the Senckenberg Nature Research Society, expresses skepticism about the environmental consequences of widespread dam development.

For a sustainable transition, the study recommends countries heavily dependent on coal or gas, such as South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, abandon future expansion plans for such power plants. Dr Jürgen Berlekamp from the University of Osnabrück emphasizes the necessity of doubling current investments by 2030 and investing an additional $30 billion annually to ensure universal access to renewable electricity.

Foreign investments, particularly from countries like China, alongside the USA and European nations, will play a crucial role in facilitating this structural change.


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