The market for wind energy is gradually growing in Africa. Wind intensity in Africa can power small wind turbines that require average wind speeds in excess of 4 meters per second (ms) (9 mph), while utility-scale wind power plants require wind speeds of 6 m/s (13 mph). The best winds in Africa are found in the coastal areas of the African continent: North, East, West and South. The five largest markets come from these regions. The key is to clarify that the markets have been classified according to their registered capacity, whether they are under construction or in operation.
Africa prides itself on having a rich combination of resources: sun, water, biomass and wind. Although more uneven than the well-documented distribution of solar resources, Africa, with its long coastline, still has one of the best potentials for wind power production. In the past decade, the cost of wind power generation has gradually decreased, and compared with fossil fuels, wind power generation has become very competitive. Some countries in the best positions have sought to seize the opportunity to shift from existing traditional power generation to increase the share of renewable energy. In doing so, they have developed a local market that is experiencing high growth rates and has attracted many global companies in the industry.
With the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) launched in 2011, South Africa has undoubtedly become a major contributor to the wind power industry across the continent. The plan aims to help achieve national renewable energy targets and stimulate the renewable industry in South Africa. REIPPP is managed by the IPP office and the plan is organized by rounds or bid windows. So far, 4 rounds have been carried out. Pricing is the main evaluation criterion in the bid selection process, but other factors such as job creation, local content, and black economic empowerment also play a role. Since 2011, a total of 1,170 MW of wind turbine capacity has been built, and there are currently another 840 MW in the pipeline. Overall, South Africa’s goal is to install 8,400 MW of wind power capacity by 2030. Facts have proved that REIPPPP has achieved great success in helping to meet South Africa’s energy needs, and this success is widely acclaimed worldwide. Many other African countries, especially the northern countries, are cited by the industry as examples of best practices and are considering replicating successful models. To be fair, the plan shows that the public-private partnership model can accelerate the delivery of much-needed large-scale infrastructure projects.
Before the arrival of the South African market, the wind power industry on the African continent was dominated by North African countries in particular. In terms of installed capacity, Morocco currently ranks second. So far, 870 megawatts have been installed, and another 50 megawatts are under construction. Unlike sub-Saharan African countries, Morocco has a high electrification rate of over 95%, so the development of renewable resources is seen as a way to help the country achieve self-sufficiency. Through the Moroccan wind energy plan managed by public institutions, the government has set a target of 2 GW of installed wind energy capacity by 2020, with an investment of 3.5 billion U.S dollars.
Egypt ranks third, but it is very close to Morocco. In fact, the two countries compete for market leadership in the region. Egypt enjoys good wind conditions, especially in the Gulf of Suez, where the average wind speed reaches 10.5 m/s. The market started around 2001, and in 20years, they have established approximately 750 MW of wind power capacity. Egypt’s ambition is to become a major renewable energy hub in North Africa, manufacturing parts and training related technical skills. They set a national goal of reaching 4.3 gigawatts of renewable energy in the country by next. Wind energy is an important part of the development of these renewable energy sources, as it will account for almost half of the announced target (2 GW). Egypt’s wind power market has a promising future, in part due to strong government support, which has stimulated investor interest and confidence in the future of the country’s renewables. By introducing a generous Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program (e.g. US$9.57 cents/kWh in the first 5 years) and the government’s plan to invest more than US $10 billion in renewable energy projects over the next few years, also encourages the international investment sector.
The East African coast is rich in wind resources and commercial-scale projects continue to develop. Ethiopia, ranked fourth, has so far installed more than 320 MW of wind farms. Especially here, the dry season in Ethiopia is also the wind season, which means that wind power is a good supplement to hydropower, which is by far the largest renewable energy source. Since more than 75% of the country’s 100 million people are not connected to the national grid and mainly live in rural areas, Ethiopia’s energy needs are huge. According to the country’s Ministry of Energy, in order to meet the growing demand, the government needs to increase its electricity output by 20-25% every year. Most importantly, Ethiopia has set a goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 64% in the next 14 years, which is one of the most ambitious national goals on the planet. Obviously, Ethiopian space needs close attention.
Kenya, which was not on the list a few years ago, can now proudly rank fifth, thanks to the Turkana Lake project. After completion, this wind farm will become the largest wind farm on the African continent. With its own advantages, it will increase the country’s current wind power capacity from 14 MW to 324 MW. This is enough to surpass Ethiopia and rise to fourth place, of course, provided that there is no change in the Ethiopian market, which is unlikely.
The wind power market in Africa, especially South Africa, has attracted some of the world’s largest multinational companies. Companies such as Siemens, General Electric, Mainstream Renewables, EDF, Iberdrola Renewables, Engie and Acciona actively participate in the African continent. In North Africa, Egypt’s NREA is one of the largest wind power capacity owners/operators, followed by Moroccan listed company ONE. For turbine manufacturers, the market is dominated by global industry leaders such as Siemens, Gamesa and Vestas. As expected, the five largest markets in Africa are all located in regions rich in wind resources. The wind energy industry on the African continent was initially concentrated in North Africa and then took off at a more significant rate in South Africa. With Ethiopia and Kenya, the East African market is gradually developing. In total, the installed capacity of wind farms in these five countries is currently approximately 3.1 GW, and the capacity under construction is approximately 1.2 GW. Although in absolute terms this does not exceed 1% of the world total (433 GW according to GWEC in 2015), it is encouraging that Africa has finally awakened and warmed up the industry. If the growth rate continues, by the end of this century, troubled Africa will present an entirely different picture.