What sources of energy to ensure economic but sustainable development for Africa? The question was asked at Next Einstein Forum (NEF), held in Kigali (Rwanda) from March 26 to 28, 2018 and attended by Sciences et Avenir. "We must not forget that only 40% of Africans have access to electricity," recalls Wilfrid Lauriano do Rego, vice president of the Terawat Initiative . The answer ? It will go through the development of solar, but also by that of short circuits for the transport of biomass, as part of a circular economy. But photovoltaics, energy available in abundance from the geographical location of the continent can only exist through the development of expensive infrastructure ( smart grids but also storage batteries, even of hydrogen fuel cells), which raises questions about their financing
"The potential of the African continent for solar energy is 10 terrawatts"
"More than 600 million Africans still do not have access to electricity. Electricity "says Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, director of UNESCO's East Africa office. The potential of the continent for renewable energies is colossal however: "in all, 10 terawatts for the solar, 300 gigawatts (GW) for the hydroeléctrique, 110 GW for the wind and finally 15 GW for the geothermique" details Wilfried Lauriano, citing a report by IRENA . A hope for the director of UNESCO: "Solar energy has the potential to reduce poverty by democratizing access to energy, and improving health. poorly supplied and have to deal with power cuts. "
GOVERNANCE. A potential still largely untapped. The problem is not so much technological as political, says Dutch economist Hans Bolscher. "German photovoltaics are often used as a model, while in Africa there is more sun" adds the NEF laureate Justus Masa, electrochemistry specialist. The main issue is the financing of energy transport and storage infrastructure. "These infrastructure projects are difficult to finance because they do not provide direct income for investors" says Gadi Ndahumba, Legal Counsel for the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF). Governments, rather than private actors, are then preferred investors, either directly or through public subsidies.
Promoting Circular Economy Including Energy Supply
But the way is long . "80% of the energy consumed in Africa comes from wood", continues the director of the East Africa Office of Unesco. "The effect of fine particles from combustion on the health of populations is worrying." Riicro Diaz-Chavez, researcher at Imperial College London, adds that it is "essential to improve the way of which biomass is used in Africa. " An example: the manufacture of wood pellets from agricultural residues of eucalyptus. "Biomass is then more easily transportable to places of energy consumption" hence shorter supply circuits.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY. So many ways to share the interests of sustainable development and renewable energies. "Rwanda is very much in favor of the circular economy and its prospects for economic growth" explains Vincent Biruta, Minister of Environment of Rwanda. "We see it as a new concept, but in Africa the practice has always been there!" Here, objects are repaired so that they last longer and the sharing economy is already a reality. And initiatives are already flourishing, as shown by J-Palm Libera, a start-up founded by the Liberian Mahmud Johnson.The idea: mutualize the exploitation of wild palms, which grow on land devoted to other cultures, to make palm oil and sell it locally.