David Mozersky is the Founding Director of the Program on Conflict, Climate Change and Green Development. An expert on Sudan and South Sudan, he has been involved in conflict prevention efforts in Africa since 2001, with a specific interest in mediation, negotiation and peace processes. He has worked with the International Crisis Group, the African Union High-Level Panel on the Sudans, and Humanity United, among others. He has written extensively about the conflicts and peacemaking efforts in the Horn of Africa, and has testified or presented before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Canadian Parliament, and South Sudanese Parliament. David has authored and co-authored more than two dozen International Crisis Group reports and briefing papers, and his writing has appeared in the Harvard International Review, International Herald-Tribune, Financial Times-Europe, and other publications.
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.