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windThis year, the countries of Africa are poised to add a collective 1.8 gigawatts of energy capacity to their grids, and all from renewable sources.

Bloomberg reports that more clean energy projects have been commissioned this year than in the entire period between 2000 and 2013. The surge in energy production is due to a growing demand for electricity across the continent, with an estimated $5.9 billion pouring into South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Compare that to the period between 2006 and 2011 when average annual investment to the entire continent was $1 billion.

Most of the energy investment is heading towards wind and solar projects. South Africa is building a 100-megawatt solar-thermal plant, valued at $884 million; and Kenya will be the site of a 310-megawatt wind project, which Lake Turkana Wind Power Ltd. will build for an initial $650 million. Ethiopia plans to install 570 megawatts of wind and geothermal capacity.

“What is different now is the breadth of activity, with wind, solar and geothermal exciting interest in many different countries, and the potential for further growth,” says Victoria Cuming, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst.

Ed Stoddard has called Africa “the world’s least-developed – and least lit – continent.” This has not always made it ideal for investment from foreign countries and companies, but the falling costs of renewable energies have opened the door to the continent’s potential.

Both the United States and China have contributed to renewable energy development in Africa. Last year, President Obama announced his Power Africa plan, which includes a $7 billion investment from the U.S. and a promise to double electricity access in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania. China, meanwhile, has invested “tens of billions of dollars” in Africa’s infrastructure, according to Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory.

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