Rebalancing Africa’s Energy mix: Key for sustainable development

Today access to the modern, clean and sustainable energy resources turns to be a key prerequisite for more and more countries to enable better welfare of population and dynamic development of industry.

Africa’s economy demonstrates unprecedented rate of economy growth. In this context, one of the pending challenges for emerging African economies remains the rising demand for energy.

If these current energy access trends continue, by 2030 there will still be 655 million people in Africa (42% of the population) without access to power, and 866 million (56% of the population) without clean cooking facilities, depriving the majority of the population of the opportunity to pursue a healthy and productive life.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with nearly 6% economic growth over the past 15 years. With continued high growth rates expected for the region, reducing the current power infrastructure shortcomings will be crucial in ushering in growth model based upon economic diversification and industrial development.

Economic growth, changing lifestyles and the need for reliable modern energy access is expected to require energy supply to be at least doubled by 2030. For electricity, it might even have to triple. Africa is richly endowed with sustainable energy potential. And in 21th century the time is ripe for planning eco-friendly energy mixes.

However, a continued reliance on oil and Gas along with traditional biomass combustion for energy will bring considerable social, economic and environmental constraints. Hence the need for a rebalanced energy basket

African countries can deploy sustainable energy mix which incorporates nuclear and renewable energy sources among others energy sources to eliminate power shortages, bring electricity and development opportunities to rural villages that have never enjoyed those benefits, boost industrial growth, create a conducive entrepreneurial ecosystem, and support increased prosperity across the continent.

According to the new report of International Energy Agency both nuclear and renewable energy sources are perceived as important pillars to guarantee world’s growing energy needs with a view of limiting greenhouse emissions and average temperature growth.

In a new energy development scenario clean energy sources will dominate the generation mix. For instance, each nuclear and wind power will embrace 18% of energy generation equally, while hydro and solar power will contribute to 20% and 9% respectively.

However, despite the fact that under the new scenario nuclear and wind generate virtually the same amount of electricity, nuclear does so with just 820 GW of installed capacity, while wind requires more than 2300 GW.

Benefits of Rebalanced energy mix

Nuclear generation is a cost-competitive low-carbon generation option according to the IEA report. The cost per unit of electricity produced from wind or solar PV being 22-40% higher than that from nuclear generation, even without counting the additional costs of adapting the grid and providing the back-up generation required to compensate for their intermittent supply.

Atomic power and renewables are not competitors and mutually exclusive. Each of them has its own advantages and models of utilization. The reason is that the balanced mix of clean and sustainable sources to provide base load energy supply in emerging countries while ensuring emissions-free energy.

Nuclear energy can provide secured power supply over a long period. Moreover, in contrast to conventional energy sources for atomic energy prices are not susceptible to global market volatility. For instance if the price of uranium doubles for instance, the cost of electricity produced by nuclear will only increase by roughly 5%, if the price of gas doubles the cost of electricity produced by gas would go up by as much as 70%.

At the same time, as well as wind energy, nuclear energy is not accompanied by the combustion process and emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases, which means there is no need to build expensive facilities to limit the emissions.

In terms of energy and environmental security, nuclear power and renewable energy can successfully complement each other. In particular, nuclear power plants can guarantee the electricity supply for major cities and regions during peak consumption stages. For its part, the wind farms are able to cover the needs in remote areas where the nuclear power plant construction can be expensive and ineffective.

Nuclear power plants provide a stable base load of energy. This can work synergistic with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, the electricity production from the plants can be lowered when good wind and solar resources are available and cranked up when the demand is high.

Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the mix of nuclear and renewable energy sources is more labor-intensive. This is a key concern for the political constituents of support, which means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.

Generating electricity from sustainable energy mix also offers considerable public health benefits. The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost workdays, and reduces overall healthcare costs thus reducing the entire health bill

Kenya’s example

For instance, for the Government of Kenya to maintain annual growth of 10% as envisaged in the development blue print “vision 2030”, energy should be an enabler to transforming Kenya into a sustainable country with an average income thus attain middle income status.

Up to 2030 about 70% of energy, according to the program, will be produced by sustainable energy sources. The government tries to free Kenya from costly and unstable energy resources like fossil fuels and diesel generators. In particular, the government is focused on the development of sustainable energy mix to boost the country’s economy and investment attractiveness. “Vision 2030” aims to not only provide the country with the necessary energy supply, but also to solve problems of poverty, food and access to modern medical services and education.

The government plans to provide electricity to 100% of the population by 2030. Among the main sources of energy that are considered water, sun, gas and nuclear power. Nuclear energy is considered as one of the most important energy sources in the Strategy 2030. According to the governmental estimates nuclear power can generate up to 19% of energy in the country, putting it in second place after the geothermal energy.

Kenya plans to construct its first ever nuclear plant to fill its power deficit, defying calls from energy critics and experts who urged the nation to instead focus on developing its renewable energy. 

Rosatom’s role in combining nuclear and renewable sources

Russian nuclear energy corporation Rosatom intends to participate not only in nuclear projects, but also in renewable energy projects. The corporation is actively exploring the global market and looking for opportunities to build mutually beneficial relationships with local players. Among the renewable energies, wind energy projects are in special focus and the aim of Rosatom is to participate in the development of the technologies necessary for these projects and in the production of the wind farm equipment. Rosatom is a long-term investor, with a profound belief that in the energy industry decisions must be made on the basis of long-term strategies and understanding.

Rosatom intends to rapidly develop the wind power projects in Russia. The state corporation has also ventured the international market with a package proposal for wind farms construction abroad. The equipment for the wind-driven electric power stations is planned to be manufactured at Russian enterprises.

On my recent research paper published in one of the respected journal OGEL journal titled: Governmental approach to Kenya’s future Energy Mix of essence to note among the findings was that no energy source is superior to another, which forms point of departure for my argument that what we should be having is a decent conversation around energy which is all energy source ought to complement each other hence the Mix.


Thuo Njoroge Daniel is an Economics & policy Analysis lecturer at Karatina University School of business and a contributing Author for OGEL Journal . He is also the Engagement Lead for the Extractive Hub in Kenya .