The Prospects for Large-Scale Renewables in Sub-Saharan Africa: Investigating the Spatial Suitability, Techno-economic Feasibility, and Underlying Barriers for Large-Scale Solar Power in Tanzania

Research output: Book/anthology/dissertation/reportPh.D. thesis

  • Ahmed Aly
More than one billion people are still living without access to electricity today. More than half of them are living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since year 2000, approx. 1.2 billion people have gained access to electricity worldwide, nearly all of them have gained access via connection to the main grid, with almost 70% of the people getting access with electricity generated from fossil fuels. There is a noticeable shortage of renewable energies related information in Africa. In Tanzania, there is an obvious tension between fossil fuel reserves and renewable energy resources. The country possesses massive coal and natural gas reserves, the official power system expansion plan till 2040 shows a dominant dependence on coal- and gas-fired power plants, and there is a lack of studies and researches on integrating renewable energy technologies. Hence it is important and timely to investigate the prospects of largescale solar power technologies in Tanzania, and to identify and analyse the underlying barriers for their deployment in the country. The PhD study has tackled three research questions: (1) Where are the best locations for large-scale solar power installations in Tanzania? (2) Is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) a techno-economically feasible option for Tanzania? (3) What are the main barriers for the deployment of large-scale solar power into the Tanzanian power system? The research starts with investigating the spatial suitability for large-scale solar power installations for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and utility-scale Photovoltaics (PV) in Tanzania through using Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis combined with Multicriteria Decision Making (MCDM) technique. A technology-specific suitability map is developed which categorizes all the non-excluded areas into most suitable, suitable, moderately suitable, and least suitable areas. The research also investigates the techno-economic feasibility of CSP technology in Tanzania, through modelling Parabolic Trough and Solar Tower CSP technologies using the System Advisor Model (SAM). The study concludes that the feasibility of CSP in the country is strongly dependent on the financing conditions. CSP projects are economically competitive at 7% debt interest rate which is a typical rate for government-led projects, but they are economically uncompetitive at 18% debt interest rate which is a typical rate for private investors-led projects. Hence, it is highly advised to initiate policy mechanisms to de-risk low carbon investments (including CSP projects), and to ensure that better financing terms can be accessed by CSP developers. Finally, the research investigates the barriers to the deployment of large-scale solar power in Tanzania. The study uses a qualitative methodology to identify key institutional, financial, and technological barriers at different levels. Primary data is collected through 30 semi-structured interviews with experts representing the main electricity sector’s stakeholders from public institutions, research institutions, private investors, civil society organizations, development partners, and financial institutions. The study argues for the possibility to work on the compatible interests between the pro-renewables development partners and the government which considers expanding electrification as a political priority. Large-scale renewable energy projects can help in expanding electrification while being technically and financially supported by development partners. Working on overcoming the identified barriers to the deployment of large-scale renewables in Sub-Saharan Africa will contribute to ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages139
Publication statusPublished - 2019

See relations at Aarhus University Citationformats

ID: 136020259