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The challenges of climate change in Africa


Africa is directly affected by global warming and is simultaneously faced with a growing demand for electricity. Renewable energies are a way to support the continent in the face of these challenges.


" Our objective is therefore to be actively involved along the entire value chain, from primary energy production to final energy consumption, as a means of combating global warming."
Patrick Pouyanné, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Total


Wilfran Moufouma-Okia, a Climatologist and Researcher at the University Paris-Saclay, is currently working in the technical support unit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He gives us his analysis on this complex issue.

What do we know about climate change?

The influence of man on global warming is now clearly established. IPCC’s latest assessment report, released in 2013, indicates that human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are the highest ever observed since pre-industrial times. Their effects, combined with those of other anthropogenic factors, have been detected throughout the climate system and it is extremely likely that they have been the main cause of global warming since the mid-twentieth century.


Signed in 2015, what did the Paris Climate Agreement stipulate?

Its main goal was to limit the rise in temperature “well below +2°C” and “continue efforts to limit it to +1.5°C” as compared to pre-industrial levels. This agreement created new challenges. It planned for the commitments to be reviewed every 5 years, with a first mandatory review in 2025. It was an incentive to develop and deploy energy saving or low carbon production solutions. The economic actors have since prepared for it. For the first time, at the last Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP23) in 2017, wnon-governmental players entered the formal negotiation process.


What are the environmental consequences in Africa?

With the evolution of rainfall patterns in recent years, clear observations have been made in monitored areas: a downward trend in annual rainfall in the Sahel in West Africa and an increase in East and South Africa. It is very likely that rising temperatures and changes in precipitation will reduce the productivity of cereal crops, which will have a significant negative impact on food security. One-third of fish species and one-fifth of endemic fish species live in ecoregions(1) that could experience changes by more than 40% in streamflow or runoff by the 2050s. This is why we must pursue the progress that has been made in risk assessment.

(1) An extended unit of land or water that contains a geographically distinct set of species, natural communities and environmental conditions, according to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)


Meeting the challenges of climate change

Entretien avec Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega

With lower costs that allow a faster development of renewable energies and proven business models, an African country can pursue a low-carbon policy.

Marc-Antoine Eyl-Mazzega IFRI’s Energy Center Director (French Institute of International Relations)

What measures have been taken to fight against climate change in Africa?

The first step taken by most African countries was to participate in international climate negotiations and to make their voices heard against polluting countries. Spokesman for the Group of 77 at COP21, South Africa has decided, since 2011, to diversify their production of energy by promoting hydropower, solar, and wind energy. Kenya and Rwanda are at the forefront of banning non-recyclable plastics. In Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), the combustion of reprocessed waste generates electricity, which solves some of the environmental problems and access to electricity. Africa’s private sector also plays a role. This is also the case for Total, which is contributing to the deployment of solar energy by joining the Terrawatt initiative. This project aims to promote the deployment of solar energy at an affordable cost through the standardization of procedures, an efficient way to enable African countries to conduct an efficient low-carbon electrification policy. Investments in adaptation solutions will also play a crucial role.


Where is Africa in terms of renewable energy?

Hydropower is the most widely deployed form of renewable energy in Africa, but, unfortunately, the projects developed are not enough to meet the needs. Sub-Saharan Africa will see its demographics double in the next 25 years. The challenge now is to proceed to a change of scale. It is up to local players and the private sector to play their role fully and implement business models that have already proved their effectiveness. States that demonstrate a genuine desire for development, unfortunately, have few means. More needs to be done in general to mobilize local savings and strengthen taxation. The challenge is to create state deposit accounts, improve tax collection, which is often non-existent, and promote the governance of financial resources in order to generate investments. Morocco, Ethiopia, Senegal and Egypt are among the countries that have implemented a renewable energy development policy.


What sustainable solutions can be implemented?

Three major patterns emerge: renewable energies connected to existing networks, the development of decentralized solutions, and individual systems that connect a solar panel to an electrical connection to power a telephone or a refrigerator, for example.
Later on, battery storage technologies will bring economic, social and environmental benefits. New sustainable cities can also be created. Eventually, standards will have to be established for building insulation, low-carbon public transportation systems and centralized cooling networks to avoid individual air conditioners. The challenge is therefore twofold: implement climate change adaptation policies and ensure electrification on the basis of low-carbon technologies, accelerating and further strengthening efforts on a large scale.

The OGCI fund invests in low emissions technologies

Launched in 2014 by Total and nine other companies, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) is rolling out actions to reduce reenhouse gas emissions of the oil industry. In 2017, the OGCI Climate Investments announced that it is investing in a patented technology, which generates less emissions by replacing water with CO2 to harden concrete. Other technological projections include high-efficiency opposed pistons engines that reduce emissions from vehicles and a large-scale gas power plant project to capture and store carbon.

Clean solutions for a growing electricity demand

Today, more than half of Africans do not have access to electricity. In the next twenty years, with the population growth, the demand for electricity will grow faster than the demand for energy (LPG, bottled gas, etc.). “Natural gas, as a substitute for coal, and renewable energies, especially solar, are a reliable answer to this new situation,” says Julien Pouget, Deputy Senior Vice-President of Renewable Energies at Total.

Today, one third of Africa’s electricity production is generated by coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels. “Natural gas emits an average of 50 to 60% less CO2 during its combustion” reminds Julien Pouget. Available in abundance, gas will be able to satisfy the increasing needs in electricity, in particular in Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa, while responding to the climatic challenges of many countries, provided that the methane emissions related to its production and its transport are properly managed. And to make it affordable and available quickly for the greatest number, Total is currently developing liquefied natural gas storage and regasification barge projects (FSRU(1)) on the continent: the first implementation will be in Ivory Coast.


lampe solaire

Awango solar lamp sold in the Tableview service station store (Blouberg, South Africa)


Africa has considerable renewable energy sources, which will also meet the growing demand for electricity and will play an important role alongside natural gas. On this path, Total is looking to becoming the leading player in solar energy on the continent by taking advantages of its various development vectors’ best assets which are Total Eren, Total Solar and SunPower. The Group is also relying on the local skills and strong foundations of its Exploration & Production and Marketing & Services divisions. This growing responsibility comes with various challenges, particularly structural ones that the Group wants to help solve by standardizing the contractual documentation related to renewable projects and by aggregating projects to facilitate their financing.
The development of solar energy in Africa also requires a bold exploration of new market segments: “Between the solar lamps successfully deployed by the Awango program, which have reached more than 10 million people since 2010, and large solar farms, such as those we have built in South Africa, there is a vast niche”, says Julien Pouget. “Electricity distribution thanks to solar energy will accelerate in Africa, as was the case with the direct use of mobile phones in the last fifteen years, bypassing landline phones,” he adds. Moreover, this is a segment that the Group is currently exploring in Africa’s rural communities, through the acquisition of Total Energy Ventures (Powerhive and Off Grid Electric) or projects led by Winch Energy (an affiliate of Total Eren). “And as modular energy storage solutions will complete these distributed solar installations, the issue of intermittency will be resolved and the field will experience a very rapid growth,” concludes Julien Pouget.

(1) Floating Storage Regasification Unit


FPU Likouf

Likouf FPU, Moho Nord project, Congo


" The development of renewable energies on the African continent will play a decisive role in solving the under-electrification issue. We have a role to play here."
Julien Pouget

Moho Nord : Demanding on environmental standards

Exploration-Production project launched off the coast of Congo in March 2013, Moho Nord was designed to minimize environmental impacts with: the absence of gas flaring under normal operating conditions; the use of advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the export of any excess gas. Moho Nord is also the first development in Congo to reinject all the water produced in the tanks.


A first in solar energy

Developed by Total Eren and its partner Africa Energy Management Platform (AEMP), the Essakane solar power plant is a first for the renewable energy industry and for the mining sector. With a capacity of 15 MWp(1), it allows the IAMGOLD Essakane S.A. gold mine to reduce its energy costs and dependence on imported petroleum products. Essakane Solar is the largest solar thermal hybrid plant in the world and one of the largest solar installations in sub-Saharan Africa.

The commissioning of Essakane illustrates a double energy revolution in progress: on the one hand, the lowering of the costs of photovoltaic technology already allows solar energy to compete with fossil fuels and, on the other hand, the fall in the costs of energy storage batteries will allow us to significantly increase the share of solar energy in hybrid systems. Anxious to help industrialists focus on their business, Total can now develop, build, finance and operate solutions to supply its mining customers with competitive renewable energy.


" In Burkina Faso, Total Eren replaces 500 tons of heavy fuel oil each month with solar energy at the IAMGOLD Essakane gold mine."
Christophe Fleurence, VP of Business Development in Africa for Total Eren


Site Essakane Solar

Essakane Solar site, Burkina Faso


(1) MWp: Megawatt Peak, a measuring unit for the maximum output of a photovoltaic power plant