Africa urged to embrace wind power to create jobs and go green

by Kim Harrisberg | @KimHarrisberg | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 4 March 2021 16:42 GMT

ARCHIVE PICTURE: Giant wind turbines dot the landscape at the Darling Wind Power national demonstration project near Cape Town July 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

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Africa has only tapped into 0.01% of its wind power potential, which could smooth the transition away from climate-warming fossil fuels

By Kim Harrisberg

JOHANNESBURG, March 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Wind could power Africa's energy demands 250 times over and create jobs lost in the move away from fossil fuels but the continent has only tapped into 0.01% of its potential, wind experts said on Thursday.

Wind projects are growing fast, with 724MW of new capacity added in 2020, bringing the total to 6468MW across Africa - equal to taking more than 2 million cars off the road, said the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), which represents the sector.

"Now is the time to urgently scale-up wind power in the region ... as a driver of local jobs and investment to power a green economic recovery from the pandemic," said Emerson Clarke, Africa Task Force Coordinator at the Brussels-based GWEC.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa has warned that the continent faces its first recession in 25 years due to output losses caused by COVID-19 and climate change-related droughts, floods, rising seas and food insecurity.

Non-hydro renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy, makes up just 3% of Africa's power supply, according to the University of Oxford, with massive investments needed to unlock its clean power potential.

South Africa has the greatest amount of wind capacity, followed by Egypt and Morocco, GWEC found. South Africa is also heavily reliant on coal, making it one of world's top emitters of carbon dioxide, a key driver of climate change.

While the South African government has pledged to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, the move away from coal could cost tens of thousands of jobs.

"This report ... points to a great investment opportunity in the African wind energy market," Ntombifuthi Ntuli, head of the South African Wind Energy Association, which represents the industry, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"This gives confidence that the number of jobs (created) will close the gap of losses during the energy transition period," said Ntuli, who was not involved in the study.

Ntuli said some 18,000 jobs have already been created in the construction and maintenance of wind farms in South Africa.

"As wind farms will be built on an annual basis, this creates a continuous job creation trend," Ntuli said.

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(Reporting by Kim Harrisberg @KimHarrisberg; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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