Access to electricity has fallen for the first time in seven years in sub-Saharan Africa. An increase of 13 million people across sub-Saharan African countries did not have electricity this year, bringing the total figure to about 600 million people.
This means that fewer people have been able to access air-conditioning across countries where “it is getting hotter”, Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, explained. “Air con is a key issue. Look, for example, to Japan. Nine out of 10 households have air con. In the United States, again, almost every household has air con. But when it comes to sub-Saharan Africa, it is one out of 20 households that have air con.”
Growing populations across sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from increasing extreme heat as the climate crisis worsens. The African continent has so far warmed at a faster rate than the global average. This is leading to an increase in deadly heatwaves.
More development of solar power across sub-Saharan African countries will be key to boosting access to electricity, according to Dr Birol.
“Sub-Saharan Africa has the richest potential for solar energy,” he said. “It gets back about 40 per cent of the world’s solar radiation and yet houses less than 1 per cent of solar electricity.”
The amount of solar electricity generated across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa is currently around three times smaller than the amount in the UK, which receives a fraction of the sunshine.
Dr Birol said: “It is the cheapest source of electricity generation in sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. I can see that solar power could well become the continent’s top electricity source..." Dr Birol said: “I don’t expect coal to play a key role in Africa’s energy future. Solar is the king of the global electricity markets, and soon it will be king of the African electricity sector.”