Few African countries are harnessing wind power on a significant scale – but South Africa offers a potential model for the rest of the continent.

Africa has a gaping hole in its energy supply. Six hundred million people, around half of the continent’s population, lack access to electricity. Without much faster progress, the continent will miss the sustainable development goal (SDG 7) of achieving universal access to electricity by 2030.

There are obvious advantages to filling Africa’s electricity gap using renewable energy, including from wind. On top of the climate benefits, both onshore and offshore wind are increasingly able to deliver lower-cost power than fossil fuels.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, almost two-thirds of new renewable energy capacity installed in 2020 generated cheaper electricity than would have been available from the lowest-cost fossil fuel alternative. The cost benefits have since become even larger, owing to the massive increase in gas costs over the past year.

Africa is blessed with abundant wind resources. Research commissioned for the IFC in 2020 found that the continent’s wind resources could supply its electricity demand 250 times over. “It is only recently that we have realised what a good wind resource there is in sub-Saharan Africa,” says Linda Munyengeterwa, the IFC’s regional industry director for infrastructure in Africa.

“In many areas of the continent the wind tends to blow strongest at night and in the early morning,” she adds. “It is very complementary to solar which only generates during the day.”

Yet progress in harnessing wind power from winds has been limited. The Global Wind Energy Council notes that Africa is only using 0.01% of the 59,000 gigawatts (GW) that the IFC says is available on the continent. And according to data published by IRENA in April, only three African countries – Egypt, Morocco and South Africa – have installed more than 1 GW of wind power capacity.

This news was originally published by African Business.

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