The European Business Council for Africa

The African Development Bank's African Natural Resources Center has published their 'Assessing the potential of Offshore Renewable Energy in Africa' report.

How can the ocean contribute renewable energy to the African ‘Blue Economy’, bringing opportunities to millions of Africans and reducing or replacing carbon emissions, and which strategic actions can help it reach this potential?

This background paper is an overview of offshore renewable energy sources across coastal Africa, including a review of six technology types: wave power, tidal stream power, ocean current power, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), offshore wind power, and marine floating solar power (FPV). Analyses are based on a synthesis of available data and literature, including a review of their physical, technical, and socio-economic features.

The power quality of offshore renewables is relatively high, being more predictable and less variable than many other renewables. The results indicate that coastal Africa, according to available data, has high technical potential for all offshore renewables, apart from tidal stream power.

In the near future, the outlook for utilizing offshore renewables is most promising for African small island states, where land is scarce and imported fuels are expensive. Here, fossil fuel power generation may be partly substituted by offshore renewables. Offshore wind power, OTEC, marine FPV, and wave power offer opportunities at different islands across Africa. At this moment, only offshore wind power is technically mature. Among small island states, Cabo Verde has the best wind resources. Marine FPV is currently being deployed in the Seychelles. The OTEC technology is not yet commercially viable but may eventually prove feasible due to its high capacity and the fact it produces freshwater as a highly attractive byproduct. On the basis of site screenings and an in-depth feasibility study on Mauritius, several African small island states have potential.

Continental Africa has plenty of offshore renewable energy sources but also an abundance of land-based renewable energy, which is more feasible to extract today. Nevertheless, countries with existing offshore industry such as oil and gas drilling may possess, or can develop, a strong offshore capacity that will enable them to use offshore renewables at scale – starting with offshore wind power.

In the longer term, several offshore renewables may become important contributors to the overall energy mix of African power pools, as well as producers for small grids at remote locations.

Eastern Africa has high and diverse potential for offshore renewables, including offshore wind power, wave power, OTEC, marine FPV, and ocean current power. The Indian Ocean island states have excellent conditions for renewable offshore technologies and the long coast of Somalia also holds great energy opportunities for the future.

Southern Africa is surrounded by energetic seas with high potential for offshore wind and wave power, and possibly even ocean current power. Mozambique seems to have conditions for all studied energy kinds, with certain potential for OTEC and wave power. Namibia and Angola have good opportunities too.

Countries of Central Africa have more limited potential for offshore renewables but some of the studied technologies can be used successfully for harvesting freshwater energy resources on rivers and lakes which could be an interesting opportunity to investigate.

Western Africa has good conditions for both offshore wind and wave power. Far offshore, at the continental shelf, conditions are prime for floating OTEC, although this potential may be more relevant for future production of energy carriers than for grid connection because of the distances to shore.

Surrounded by the enclosed Mediterranean and Red Sea, Northern Africa has limited potential for wave and tidal power. Strong winds however create potential for offshore wind power both along the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Red Sea coasts.

The development of offshore capacity holds the key to offshore renewables. The sea is a challenging environment for any moored equipment and most of the technologies analyzed are still at pre-commercial stage. But the resources are there, ready to become part of a prospering ‘Blue Economy’ when circumstances are right. Since the African continent is blessed with renewable energy of many sorts, the suitability of offshore technologies will always be a compromise determined by the local availability of land-based, less challenging, alternatives.


Please read the full report here.