The recently unveiled "Status of Wind in Africa Report" provides a comprehensive overview of the continent's current wind power landscape, spotlighting a pronounced divide between installed capacity and vast untapped potential.
The report positions South Africa and Egypt at the forefront, with Morocco following closely, in terms of installed capacity for clean wind energy.
South Africa, despite its historical reliance on coal, has showcased a commitment to renewables, culminating in the conclusion of its sixth round of renewable energy auctions in 2022, which has led the largest wind market in Africa, with a current electricity capacity of 3.4GW from wind power.
Egypt, traditionally dependent on natural gas, is undergoing a transformative shift with the installation of large-scale wind and solar projects. Aiming for an impressive 42% renewable energy capacity in its power mix by 2030, as outlined in its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the COP process, Egypt is emerging as a key player in Africa's renewable energy transition.
The report identifies a total of 83 wind farms across Africa, either installed or under construction, set to provide 9GW of clean power. However, the most striking revelation lies in the analysis of the continent's wind energy project pipeline, projecting a potential increase of over 900%. A staggering 140 projects are in the planning stages, representing an additional 86GW of new installed capacity.
Despite wind energy contributing significantly to national grids — supplying 17% of Kenya's total power and 15% of Senegal's — the report underscores the transformative potential of wind energy in Africa that remains largely untapped.
With a wind energy potential exceeding 400 GW, numerous projects face jeopardy due to challenges such as a lack of finance, unstable policy regimes, and grid constraints.
Wangari Muchiri, director of Africa Wind Power and GWEC representative, expressed concern about the precarious situation of these projects, stating, "There are over 400 GW of potential wind energy projects in the pipeline throughout Africa, which could provide clean, sustainable power to millions of people.
Yet, these projects are at risk, and their realisation hangs in the balance due to challenges such as a lack of finance, unstable policy regimes, and grid constraints."
The report identifies five subregions in Africa, each with significant wind energy potential but hindered by common challenges. North Africa leads with a potential for 18,822GW, while Southern Africa, driven by South Africa's wind farms, follows closely as the second-highest installed wind capacity region.
Despite the positive strides in South Africa's wind sector, challenges persist. The recent disappointment in South Africa’s REIPPPP Bid Window 6, where no wind project was awarded despite a doubled allocation, underscores the hurdles faced by the industry.
Niveshen Govender, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (Sawea), acknowledged the growing wind sector but highlighted grid capacity constraints as a significant hurdle. Govender noted that the Electricity Regulation Act Amendment Bill could be a critical regulation supporting South Africa's transition towards a more competitive electricity market.
The report urges world leaders to support the continent in becoming a renewable energy superpower. Wangari Muchiri's call at COP28 in Dubai underscores the need for increased finance to unlock Africa's vast wind energy potential, ensuring a cleaner and sustainable future for the continent.