6 Mapping Africa’s clean energy potential It is widely acknowledged that Africa is home to vast, unexploited and readily available renewable energy resources with the potential to contribute to the continent’s energy security. In particular, there is significant potential for wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass energy generation. However, since the energy resources are not evenly distributed across the continent, generalisations are misleading. Africa experiences some of the most intense solar radiation in the world and, therefore, the continent has vast potential for solar energy, especially in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts. This suggests that all of Africa, including the island states, could benefit considerably from photovoltaic (PV) technologies, which have already been widely promoted in recent years. The potential for wind energy varies considerably. While many landlocked sub-Saharan African countries feature only low wind speeds, South Africa, north Africa and the east coast have significant wind energy potential. Many countries have already started to harness this energy. Even countries with less suitable wind conditions have introduced wind-powered applications such as water pumping for potable water and irrigation. In addition, research estimates potential for 9 000 megawatts (MW) of geothermal energy in Africa, particularly in the Great Rift Valley. However, of all countries with such potential, only Kenya and Ethiopia currently make notable use of geothermal energy (just over 200 MW). By far the most common form of renewable energy used in Africa is hydro energy, which is electricity generated through turbines turned by falling water. The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) estimates that large hydro projects (more than 10 MW) utilising hydro energy at the seven major river systems (Congo, Limpopo, Niger, Nile, Orange, Senegal and Zambezi) could feasibly produce a combined hydro capacity sufficient to produce enough power for the whole continent at current consumption rates, plus additional energy for export. However, with a current exploitation rate of 4.3 %, this energy source remains largely untapped. Africa also has significant potential for generating energy from biomass. The most successful forms of biomass are sugar cane bagasse from agriculture, pulp and paper residues from forestry, and manure from livestock. While in 2011 bagasse already accounted for about 94 % of the 860 MW of installed bioenergy generation on the continent, research shows that more than 16 sub-Saharan African countries could meet a significant part of their current electricity needs from bagasse-based cogeneration. Finally, there is also considerable potential for ethanol production and for biogas from animal waste. Regarding the regional distribution of clean energy resources, Africa’s energy map can be divided into four broad regions based on current consumption, access patterns and the potential for clean energy generation from different sources: north Africa, continental sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa and the island states. Though all regions predominantly rely on oil, each energy potential map is different due to distinct geographical, economic and social factors which need to be understood. The north Africa region, consisting of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, currently relies primarily on oil and gas to meet its energy needs. While universal access has almost been attained, the region has also made significant investments in unexploited clean energy generation in recent years, particularly in solar and wind power. In sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa and the islands), comprising 41 countries, a group of seven countries constitutes one of the world’s major exporters of oil. However, traditional biomass accounts for 80 % of the total domestic energy supply. While clean energy potential for all forms is vast, only a very small proportion of the region’s rural population has access to modern energy services. South Africa’s current energy sources are dominated by hard coal, which is the source of slightly more than half of the primary energy supply. Currently, the level of access stands at about 70 %, but the situation in rural areas is significantly worse, even though extensive distribution infrastructure is already in place. Since 2003 South Africa has taken steps to mainstream renewable energies and use its significant clean energy sources including wind, solar, hydro and biomass. The island states, comprising Cape Verde, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Sao Tome & Principe, face unique energy problems due to their isolation. Overall, up to 80 % of the energy in these countries comes from imported oil products, though they have significant potential to exploit a number of clean energy sources, particularly wind, solar and biomass.