Renewable energy sources could supply nearly a quarter of Africa's power needs by 2030, more than four times the current levels, according to a report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
In 2013, renewables accounted for five per cent of the continent's needs but this figure could reach 22 per cent over the next 15 years, IRENA said in its Africa 2030 report, which sets out a "roadmap" for the transition to clean power.
IRENA says Africa's energy production must double and its electricity production triple to keep up with the pace of development and meet demand. The continent's economic growth is picking up speed but energy shortages are a problem.
"Africa holds some of the best renewable energy resources in the world in the form of biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind," IRENA Director General Adnan Amin said in the report.
Solar energy can be developed across the whole continent, while biomass and hydroelectric offer potential in central and southern areas, the report said.
Wind is primarily of interest to the north, east and south, while the Great Rift Valley in the east has significant geothermal potential.
With the cost of the technology falling, renewables appear to be the most economic option in a growing number of situations, IRENA said, but developing and expanding capacity in power distribution infrastructure will need investments averaging $US70 billion ($A98.79 billion) a year between now and 2030.
IRENA also stressed the potential of non-traditional biomass. Moving to modern renewable energy cooking methods would reduce the use of inefficient traditional cooking stoves by more than 60 per cent, IRENA said.
This would lead to savings of at least $US20 billion a year, mainly in reduced healthcare costs by improving the air quality in homes.
IRENA urged governments to create conditions that would help promote the use of renewables through a better regulatory framework and boosting investment.