When daily power cuts became the “new normal” in Zambia during a 2015 drought, farms, companies, schools, and households experienced anything but business as usual. Zambia’s energy is drawn primarily from hydropower, so when a dry spell plagues the nation, its economy—alongside the potential for long-term socio-economic development—dries up, too.
Although low rainfall that year was especially punishing, Zambia’s energy crisis has been a problem for over a decade because of the nation’s reliance on hydropower. In theory, diversification was possible: since the Zambian sun shines almost 65 percent of daylight hours, solar power was an attractive option. But scalability and affordability had posed challenges.
Scaling Solar, a World Bank Group program that helps developing countries procure grid-tied, private solar power, offers Zambia a solution. The program includes technical advice for large-scale adoption of solar technology and a set of pre-negotiated, template documents aimed at increasing transparency and reducing risks and costs for governments and developers. Financing, guarantees, and insurance to boost confidence about projects in new and challenging markets are also options.
Scaling Solar made it possible for Zambia to achieve some of the lowest solar tariffs in the region. The program has since expanded to Senegal, and mandates have also been signed in Ethiopia and Madagascar. Spreading renewables-based solutions across the continent is important because although Africa is responsible for only 4 percent of global greenhouse emissions, 65 percent of Africans are in some way impacted directly by climate change.
Identifying solutions to help Africans adapt and become more resilient to climate change is one of the objectives of the One Planet Summit taking place on March 14 in Nairobi. The event highlights Africa’s situation as a continent facing climate-related challenges and opportunities, and it will convene African leaders, entrepreneurs, donors, international organizations, and other stakeholders. It is co-hosted by the World Bank Group.
Shining a Light on African Sustainability
The One Planet Summit is built around the idea that resources and solutions for renewable energy already exist in Africa—but there is a need to accelerate financing and mainstream development as the region struggles with rapid urbanization and other challenges presented by global warming.
The figures are daunting. More than 470 million people live in sub-Saharan Africa’s cities, and this is expected to double over the next 25 years. By 2050, the region is expected to house 20 percent of the world’s urban residents. Climate change is a leading factor contributing to the trend toward urbanization, as extreme temperatures and unpredictable rainfall affect income from agriculture.
As urbanization continues, so does the demand for resources and impact on the environment. Currently, cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon emissions. The concentration of people, industry, and infrastructure leaves cities especially vulnerable to climate change--and also uniquely placed to combat it.
Image: Nairobi has a $8.5 billion climate investment opportunity leading up to 2030. Sandor Szmutko/Shutterstock.com
Nairobi, the city hosting the One Planet Summit, is a good example of how climate-related challenges can open the doors for climate-smart investment. Although 70 percent of Nairobi’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable sources, there are opportunities to attract investment in other sectors. IFC analysis found that Nairobi has a $8.5 billion climate investment opportunity leading up to 2030. The biggest investment opportunity—$5 billion—lies in electric vehicles, followed by public transport ($1.6 billion), green buildings ($1.1 billion), water ($360 million), renewable energy ($240 million), and waste ($140 million).
Together, these investment opportunities result from strong policy frameworks such as Nairobi’s Integrated Urban Development Master Plan. The plan focuses on sustainable transport, water and wastewater, power, municipal solid waste, and telecommunications. As with Scaling Solar, these initiatives—along with others that will be proposed and examined at the One Planet Summit—approach long-term climate and development challenges with a determination that sustainability, not crisis, will become the “new normal.”
Published in March 2019