Malawi and four other African nations have either stagnated or reversed in electricity access, a new study by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has shown.
The findings of a study titled ‘Energy Prices in Africa: Transition Towards Clean Energy for Africa’s Industrialisation’ unveiled on Tuesday show that Liberia, Malawi, Central African Republic, Burundi, and South Sudan have not made much progress to ensure the majority of its citizens have access to electricity.
Malawi, in the report, is one of the least electrified countries with 42 percent of the urban and only 4 percent of the rural population connected to electricity.
Countries like Nigeria, DRC and Ethiopia reportedly have the biggest electricity access deficits.
In a presentation, which was made during a virtual ministerial meeting, the study showed that 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million have no access to clean cooking fuel.
While electricity access rates in 24 countries are below 50 percent.
“There’s no way Africa can build forward better if we do not make adequate investments in energy and ensure affordable access for all,” said ECA executive secretary, Vera Songwe.
The UN Under-Secretary-General urged countries to ensure that there’s cost reflective pricing in the energy sector.
“Access to cheap and clean energy is an essential component of Africa’s transformation and industrialisation,” said Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics (ACS), who moderated the session.
The ACS director said, “in the context of AfCFTA deployment and implementation, supplying economies with affordable fuel is integral to supporting actions for faster achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.”
The report deplores the fact that Africa relies mainly on fossil fuels and biomes instead of diversifying its primary energy supply, given its plethora of resources (renewable and non-renewable).
“Households use 86 percent of biofuel and waste energy for cooking, while the transport sector consumes 78 percent of oil. Natural gas is mainly used in industrial sector.”
In his presentation, Anthony Monganeli Mehlwana, an ECA economic affairs officer, highlighted the “urgent need to invest in electricity infrastructure, diversify electricity supply and embrace modern renewables.”
In terms of prices, he said “Levelised Cost of Energy [LCOE] or fossil power plants is more expensive” than wind and solar.
“Onshore wind costs $59 per megawatts [MW] while utility solar PV costs $79 per MW. Meanwhile, the cost of coal is $109 per MW and natural gas stands at $74 per MW.”
He pointed out that “high energy production costs, transmission and distribution losses (18-25 percent) means that utilities need to be constantly bailed out and subsidies implemented for users.”
At this rate, and according to the SDG 7 tracking report, Africa will not meet the SDG 7 targets due to limited supply and access to electricity. About $40 billion worth of investments per year is needed to meet the continents energy needs.
The report recommends that countries must provide an enabling environment for crowding-in private sector investments in electricity sector; apply cost reflective tariffs while paying attention to efficient generation of electricity to lower the costs; and provide incentives and mechanisms to increase the share of renewable energy in the power systems.
The study also highlights the need for countries to introduce natural gas as a transitionary fuel to replace coal and facilitate full deployment of renewable.