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COP27: China reveals ambition to bankroll renewable energy transition in Africa

From supporting transport network infrastructure development in many African countries, China is once again seeking to lead the way in cooperating with the continent on the long road to achieving the ambitious energy transition.

Zhenhua Xie
Zhenhua Xie, China’s Special Envoy for Climate Change

China is home to 90 per cent of the global renewable energy tech, with solar alone producing a projected 361 GW at the end of 2021. According to Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory (AECEA), China’s total annual solar cell and module production capacity may increase to 600 GW at the end of 2022.

As the world discusses Energy for All under the Sustainable Development Goals Number Seven, the African continent is looking at development partners in the global North or South to spur its energy transition towards the net zero goal.

Noteworthy is that Africa suffers a huge loss per capita of energy consumption despite being the least contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Zhenhua Xie, China’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, says: “Africa has the richest endowment of renewable energy in the world and holds the brightest future of renewable energy. In the past 20 years, solar power cost reduction has reduced by about 90 per cent.”

Some African countries are already pioneering electric vehicles with hydrogen, recently entering the development nexus at a time that global capital is moving to green energy on a large scale. The investment is projected to reach $1.4 trillion in 2022 alone.

Zhenhua advises Africa to “seize opportunities on renewable investments given its young population to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy given addressing climate change and leading industrial change.”

“China will share experiences with developing countries in developing renewable energy,” Zhenhua stated at a side event at COP27 in Egypt.

China Renewable Investment Portfolio

China has committed to invest up to $1.2 billion in South-South cooperation to establish 40 mitigation programmes in more than 30 developing countries. Already some work is going on in Ethiopia and Egypt. In 2021, China Africa Cooperation agreed to the 2035 pact for investment in a new green development pattern.

The pact aims at enhancing Climate Change cooperation programmes in clean energy and other low-emission areas like renewable energy.

Alioune Ndoye, Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and Ecological Transition of Senegal, says Africa is seeking investment in Solar, Wind and Geothermal as well as gas and renewable energy.

“The Continent is home to only 30 per cent of energy mix made up of renewable energy, especially in solar powered street lighting. What is needed is access to energy and affordable energy for all. Africa wants developments and energy for the future generations,” Ndoye stated.

According to Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, the Africa Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, although Africa has 60 per cent renewable energy endowment potential, only one per cent is currently being tapped. Just like with 60 per cent of arable land, the continent net exports stand only at 35 per cent.

“The Continent spends $45 Billion in importing food every year. Similarly, only 9 per cent of energy generated in Africa includes renewable – 6.8 per cent hydro,” Sacko stated at COP27 as the conference discussed the theme of Energy.

Out of $2.6 billion in renewable energy investment last year, especially in solar, a mere 2 per cent went to Africa.

Inert Energy Poverty

From some 12 million people employed in the global renewable energy sector, less than 3 per cent (323,000) are in Africa, a continent with 600 million people in energy poverty, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Three African countries standing tall in renewable energy investment are Kenya, Ghana and Rwanda – well on track to the great energy transition. Even then, a good fraction of their population makes up the 970 million people in Africa lacking access to clean cooking.

With just 30 million people having access to gas, the high energy poverty in Africa pushes many to biomass energy sources, something highly responsible for deforestation across the continent.

Under sustainable energy for all, the world seeks to bring the connection to 90 million people a year. To achieve this, some financial institutions are introducing “partial risk guarantee instruments as a strategy to spur the renewable energy footprint.”

If Africa develops all its discovered oil and gas facilities, the continent will add 10 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide gas equivalent of greenhouse gas emission into the atmosphere raising its emission contributions to about 3.5 per cent.

Junfeng Li, President of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association, urged Africa to reach out to China in a bid to solve its energy poverty issues.

“Wind and Solar can solve Africa’s problem. Half renewable and half fossil fuel.”

Congo and Zambia are known to have 80 per cent of Cobalt required for Lithium battery making – a key component for SOLAR PV transition. Those countries have set up special economic zones for investors seeking to develop the Cobalt deposits because of leapfrogging Africa to the great energy transition.

China Opens Renewable Energy Factory in South Africa

Yabin Xing, the President of North America & Africa of Talesun Solar, reveals that China will do little talk and more actions in supporting Africa’s leapfrog to its renewable energy future.

“We are already building a factory in South Africa to produce 300 Megawatts of energy a year. We seek to manufacture renewable energy technologies for deployment around the continent.”

Benedikt Doenhoff, Market Intelligence & Business Development Manager of CSI Solar, warned that although renewable energy solutions can be deployed quickly because they are very easy to build, they are not easy to integrate into the national energy infrastructure.

“This is why we are supporting local designers and trainers for the good quality standards and infrastructure for the integration of renewables. We recommend that African countries concentrate on importing standards technologies instead of import tariffs.”

COP27 President and Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, stated at the opening of the talks that “Africa has a wealth of untapped resources that could be put to use in the manufacturing of renewable energy tools like electric batteries, wind turbines and other low-carbon technologies to support global mitigation efforts.”

Courtesy: PAMACC News Agency

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