ASADI 2010: Improving energy access in Africa

Can Africa afford to go for renewable energy? Credit: Flickr/PRI's The World

It is time for another African conference here on the SciDev.Net blog.

Next week, the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI) descends on the sleepy seaside town of Somerset West, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. The theme of the conference, ASADI’s sixth, is ‘improving energy access in Africa’.

The conference will hear about the state of energy access in Africa. Did you know that 70 per cent of the continent, or nearly 600 million Africans, lack access to electricity? And that nearly half of its power generation capacity belongs to South Africa?

Clearly, Africa’s energy revolution can’t come fast enough. But the continent has many choices to make. Can it afford to go for renewable energy? For South Africa with its coal reserves, dirty energy has been cheapest. But with climate change knocking on the door and green technology emerging as a growth market, renewables are becoming more competitive.

Already, there is progress on the renewable energy front in Africa. Kenya is looking to wind to power its grid, and South Africans are putting solar panels on their roofs to cut their rising electricity bills. The conference will give my blog co-pilot, Munyaradzi Makoni, and myself the opportunity to investigate these, and other, successes in more detail.

What can scientists do to make their voices heard in African energy policymaking? What are the benefits – and risks – of expanding nuclear energy in Africa? Can ‘smart’ grid technology help to curb the continent’s voracious energy appetite? Keep checking in for updates on these questions and many, many more.

Linda Nordling, SciDev.Net columnist

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