Sergio Castellanos is a Berkeley Energy & Climate Institute – Tecnológico de Monterrey (BECI–ITESM) Energy Fellow working at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab with Prof. Dan Kammen. His research focuses on expanding an optimization model –SWITCH– to Mexico to determine the optimal investments in new generation and transmission assets. Through his research, he also analyzes the manufacturing capacity of photovoltaic solar technologies in Mexico. Previously, in his Ph.D. studies (Mechanical Engineering ’15, MIT) he characterized the electrical impact of structural defects in silicon-based solar cells. He enjoys reading, exploring new hobbies, and learning more about the intersection of technology, business, and policy in renewable energy.
Recent forecasts suggest that African countries must triple their current electricity generation by 2030. Our multicriteria assessment of wind and solar potential for large regions of Africa shows how economically competitive and low-environmental–impact renewable resources can significantly contribute to meeting this demand. We created the Multicriteria Analysis for Planning Renewable Energy (MapRE) framework to map and characterize solar and wind energy zones in 21 countries in the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) and the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and find that potential is several times greater than demand in many countries. Significant fractions of demand can be quickly served with “no-regrets” options—or zones that are low-cost, low-environmental impact, and highly accessible. Because no-regrets options are spatially heterogeneous, international interconnections are necessary to help achieve low-carbon development for the region as a whole, and interconnections that support the best renewable options may differ from those planned for hydropower expansion. Additionally, interconnections and selecting wind sites to match demand reduce the need for SAPP-wide conventional generation capacity by 9.5% in a high-wind scenario, resulting in a 6–20% cost savings, depending on the avoided conventional technology. Strategic selection of low-impact and accessible zones is more cost effective with interconnections compared with solutions without interconnections. Overall results are robust to multiple load growth scenarios. Together, results show that multicriteria site selection and deliberate planning of interconnections may significantly increase the economic and environmental competitiveness of renewable alternatives relative to conventional generation.