The case of North Africa:

Given increasing population, urbanization and improvement in living standards in the North African countries, energy demand from households, industry, service and transport will increase by 2030. This will directly affect energy supply and the overall energy system. Regional electricity demand in particular is predicted to rise significantly, leading to an increase in power generation. In our paper, we found that to meet this increasing energy demand, the North African region will have to nearly double its electricity generation by 2030, from 325 TWh today to 618 TWh. The sub-region happens to have tremendous resources in fossil fuels and particularly in natural gas that can be used to satisfy the growing energy demand at a lower cost. Although burning fossil fuels is leading to a warmer climate and the region is among those which will be the most harmed by the global warming and has the least capacity to cope with it, it has contributed the least to emissions (Figure 1) and fossil fuels are still vital and will be for the next few decades for many developing countries including the North African

Nevertheless, the emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement (PA) make this option impossible. Therefore, for North African countries to meet their energy needs while respecting their pledges to reduce GHG emissions, additional capacity must be met through RE. Hence, in recent years the North African countries, have started to exploit their RE potential, in order to meet their increasing energy demand while fighting climate change. In 2015, installed RE capacity in the region amounted to nearly 8.5 GW. It increased by 20% between 2010 and 2015 and by 33% between 2015 and 2018. Hydropower resources account for most of this installed capacity, totaling 6.5 GW in 2015. Non-hydro renewables (i.e. solar, wind, bioenergy, solid biofuels, bagasse) have also increased. Their capacity doubled between 2010 and 2015, to reach 2.5 GW in 2015. Wind energy accounts for the majority of installed non-hydro RE capacity across the region. Morocco is taking the lead in North Africa’s energy transition by working to exceed 52% of RE in its national electricity mix by 2030. Energy efficiency regulations have also been implemented in most of the countries, while some of them, including Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, have started to reduce fossil fuel

Yet, while RE targets set under the (I)NDC will help increase the shares of RE in North Africa’s electricity mix, natural gas will still account for more than half of the power generation mix by 2030 (Figure 2). Indeed, if further steps have not taken by the international community to accelerate low carbon technology transfer and the provision of financial resources to these countries, the region will use its important gas resources as a transition fuel. However, while gas is the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, it still produces CO2 and CH4 and need to be replaced by RE as soon as possible. Nevertheless, the poor result at COP25 in December 2019 and in particular, the failing of developed countries to provide sufficient assurance that they would mobilize adequate and predictable finance for vulnerable countries to respond to climate impacts, poses a risk on the success of the North African countries in meeting their PA’ pledges by 2030.

Read the paper.

Figure 1: Per capita GHG emissions of North Africa

Source: Gütschow et al., 2019

Figure 2:  Generated electricity by type of power plant in 2018 and 2030 (TWh)

Source: Author, 2019.

Nadia Ouedraogo is Economic Affairs Officer at the Macroeconomic & Governance Division at UNECA.