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Page added on September 29, 2008

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Africa awash in sunlight, but not solar energy

From household solar panels to thermal generators big enough to power a town, sun power has enjoyed explosive growth around the world.

Everywhere, that is, except on the sun-drenched continent of Africa.
With an average daily dose of five-to-seven kilowatts per hour (kWh) for every square metre (10 square feet), Africa has more potential for producing energy from the sun than almost anywhere on Earth, with the possible exception of northern Australia or the Arabian peninsula.

Yet the continent accounts for only a miniscule percentage of the world’s solar energy output. And most of what it does generate is produced in one country, South Africa.

“In Africa, there is a growing awareness of the potential benefits of solar, especially as the conventional grid continues to prove unreliable. Lots of people are looking for alternatives,” said Lawrence Agbemabiese, a Paris-based energy expert at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

And the need for energy could hardly be more urgent: in sub-Saharan Africa barely one person out of four has access to grid electricity. And in the region’s rural areas, this falls to just a tenth.


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