An Africa power sector scorecard shows that solar will make inroads into the African energy sector over the next two years, accounting for 9% of new capacity additions, as renewables uptake across the continent continues to grow.

The proportion of new renewables, excluding hydropower, increased last year across all parts of the African continent, according to data from London-based consultancy, African Energy.

The new report, titled African Energy Atlas finds that a net 15.5 GW of new installed energy capacity was added in Africa in 2017, which kept up with the population growth across all parts of the continent, except Central Africa, as well as with GDP growth in all regions, except East Africa.

Drawing on a live database, the report also analyses whether renewable energy use is increasing, and if the rate of increase is being sustained.

Last year, the proportion of clean energy sources rose across all parts of the continent, but only West Africa and Central Africa showed an increase in new renewables growth rate, the report finds.

The semiarid region of western and central Africa on the southern edge of the Sahara desert, known as the Sahel region, is likely to have an even brighter renewable energy future. It is poised to host up to 10 GW of solar, following this year’s launch of the Desert to Power program, initiated by the African Development Bank, alongside the Green Climate Fund and the Africa 50 investment fund.

But for now, according to the consultancy’s data, new additions across the continent will be overwhelmingly dominated by natural gas. Indeed, with a total of 66 GW scheduled to be added from 2018-2020, natural gas will account for 45%, and will be heavily concentrated in North Africa.

Solar and wind are expected to make inroads, accounting for 9% and 7% of scheduled capacity additions, respectively, which can still be greatly improved upon, as noted in the report.

Meanwhile, in the sub-Saharan region, including South Africa, renewables are establishing a stronger foothold. According to the report, scheduled capacity additions over the next two years will come mainly from hydropower (32%) and natural gas (26%), along with coal (13%) and solar (12%).

South Africa, in particular, has welcomed good solar news this year. The 27 outstanding renewable PPAs under the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) were finally signed this April, including 12 PPAs for solar PV projects totaling 813 MW, and further positive political signals have arrived, despite the probable retention of a 1 GW solar cap.

Image: African Solar Designs, Ltd