Clean energy policies becoming more widely adopted across sub-Saharan Africa

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Developing countries have made unprecedented pledges to consume more clean energy tomorrow even as they are leading the way today with record new wind and solar project completions, the latest edition of Climatescope concludes.

Climatescope, the clean energy country competitiveness index and online tool supported by the UK and US governments offers a compelling portrait of clean energy activity in 58 emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. The group includes major developing nations China, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as dozens of others.

This marks the third year Climatescope has been conducted globally and reflects activity in 2015, a year that culminated with the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement at UN-sponsored talks in December. In the run-up to those negotiations, three quarters of the Climatescope nations submitted or reiterated pledges to cut their future CO2 emissions. An even higher number are now on record with promises to achieve certain clean energy consumption goals in coming years.

These countries are not waiting to get started on adding renewable capacity, however. Between them, they added 69.8 gigawatts of new wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable power generating capacity in 2015 – the same as total installed capacity in Australia today. China accounted for the majority of activity in Climatescope countries, but smaller nations also played important roles. By comparison, wealthier Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries built 59.2 gigawatts last year.

Among Climatescope’s other key findings regarding Africa are:

  • Clean energy policies are becoming more widely adopted across sub-Saharan Africa. Fourteen of 19 Climatescope countries from the region have introduced renewable energy targets. This is illustrated in clean energy investment which nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015, to reach $5.2bn. Climatescope’s African nations also updated their climate change policies in the lead up to the Paris climate conference. All 19 surveyed submitted commitments, 14 of which already included emissions reduction targets.
  • The role off-grid electrification solutions play is increasingly recognised by governments. All 19 Climatescope countries in the region have stated targets for improving electrification rates, and 13 have explicitly detailed plans to incorporate off-grid solutions to achieve their goals. Off-grid electrification companies in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe received approximately $80m in new investment in 2015, more than four times the amount recorded in 2014, confirming the emergence of east Africa as a leading region in the sector.
  • South Africa once again was the best scoring Climatescope country in sub-Saharan Africa thanks to record investment year and finished fifth in the global rankings. The country’s clean energy auction programme led to $4.1bn of new investment in 2015. Uganda (7th globally) and Kenya (10th) also made the top ten thanks to significant policies supporting clean energy development, healthy investment activity and a growing number of stakeholders involved in the energy sector.

Ethan Zindler is Head of Americas at Bloomberg New Energy Finance