Cape Verde: 100% renewable energy by 2020

Cape Verde: 100% renewable energy by 2020

The government has committed that by 2020 it will be the first country to be solely powered by renewable energy.

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The Cape Verde is an archipelago made up of ten volcanic islands, it is roughly 250 miles off the coast of Senegal in the Atlantic Ocean. In the 16th and 17th centuries the slave trade made the islands hugely prosperous, however once the slave trade was abolished in the 19th century, the islands economy went into a sleep decline, until they became a vital commercial center and stopover for passing ships.

Cape Verde is one of Africa’s most democratic and developed nations however due to its lack of natural resources, and the fact it is classified as semi-desert, its economic success has been driven largely through foreign investment and the tourism industry. The living standards are the highest in the region but whilst the islands have a rich supply of both shellfish and fish, over 90% of all the food consumed has to be imported.

Between the years of 1994 and 2000 Cape Verde received almost $407 million in foreign investment, 58% was spent in the tourism industry, 21% in the services and fisheries industries, 17% in industry and 4% in infrastructure.

The move towards renewable energy began in 2010

In 2010 the government in Cape Verde pledged that by 2020 wind turbines and solar power plants would be supplying the archipelago with 50% of their total energy needs. They began investing hugely and less than a year later in 2011, Cape Verde had built four wind farms on the four largest islands, which between them started supplying approximately 25% of the country’s electricity needs. This successful initiative made them one of the top countries across the world for renewable energy and in 2011 resulted in them winning the Best Renewable Project in Africa prize, at the Africa Energy awards held in South Africa. The judging panel said, “The rate at which Cape Verde has achieved such a high proportion of wind power in its electricity mix is truly staggering. It is showing other resource-stretched small islands around the world what can be achieved, where there’s a will,”.

Success breeds success

Following the success of the four wind farms built in 2011, the desire to power the whole country with renewable energy has increased, resulting in a revision of the governments initial goals. They are now working towards achieving a level of 50% by 2018 and 100% by 2020.

The reasons behind their desire to become the first nation to be powered entirely by renewable energy are not just environmental, it is also partly driven by the fact that they have very little arable farmland and almost no mineral resources of their own, making them a country that is hugely dependent on costly imports.

Sun and wind are however two things that Cape Verde does have in abundance, and being able to successfully harness their power would allow them to significantly reduce the vast amount of money they currently spend importing expensive fossil fuel and other goods required by their 550,000 inhabitants. The investment in solar and wind would also create a large number of jobs.

Anildo Costa, the energy minister has said, “Cape Verde wants to serve as a laboratory,”. “We’ll invest in technological innovations so we can learn over time, and fully adopt those technologies once they become profitable for the country. Given the share of renewable energy in our network, and our intensive experience of these technologies, we should be able to share this experience beyond our borders”. Costa later added, “We see our investment in renewable energy as something larger,”. “We want to have a state of the art renewable energy sector that serves as a reference point for the entire country.”.

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