Sustainable biofuels have an important role to play in Africa’s development. Sugarcane bioethanol is currently the most cost-effective commercial biofuel and has the highest energy balance. The bioethanol industry, like sugar production, has matured in technological terms.

IRENA’s Renewable Energy Innovation Outlook series analyses the emerging developments making renewable energy technologies (RETs) increasingly competitive in the world’s energy markets and systems.

The transition to renewables cuts across the entire urban energy landscape, from buildings to transport, to industry and power. Renewables can bring tremendous benefits to cities, including cleaner air, modern services and improved living spaces.

The number of people without access to electricity is estimated at more than a billion, while almost 2.9 billion still rely on traditional, unsustainable biomass sources such as firewood for cooking and heating. About 80% of those lacking modern energy access live in rural areas, which also host more than 70% of the world’s poor.

Africa has abundant renewable energy resources. Traditionally reliant on hydropower, the continent is turning to solar photovoltaics (PV) to bolster energy security and support rapid economic growth in a sustainable manner.

Access to electricity is vital for socio-economic development. But power cannot be extended to everyone solely through national electricity grids. Off-grid renewable energy solutions are crucial to achieve universal access to electricity.

Energy use in transport accounts for around one-third of global final energy consumption, and demand is growing rapidly, at about 1% annually. Transport has the lowest renewable energy share of any sector, making progress in this area crucial for the global transition to a sustainable energy system.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has set out to produce comprehensive, reliable data sets on renewable energy capacity and use worldwide. The 2016 Renewable Energy Statistics Yearbook shows data sets on renewable power-generation capacity for 2006-2015, renewable power generation for 2006-2014 and renewable energy balances for 100 countries and areas for 2013 and 2014. Further, it features statistics on investments in renewable energies from 18 major multi-lateral, bilateral and national development financial institutions presented for the period 2009-2014.

The Group of Twenty (G20) has a leading role in technology development and innovation that can help to accelerate renewable energy deployment. The financing institutions within the G20 represent the bulk of the global financing system.

Scaling up renewable energy calls for mobilising a massive investment increase. Renewables bring far reaching benefits in terms of human health, energy access, environmental protection and the response to climate change, along with the potential to create new jobs around the world.