Pursuing Africa’s Vast Energy Potential

Pursuing Africa’s Vast Energy Potential

This piece was originally published in the December 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Craig Updyke, Director, Trade and Commercial Affairs, NEMA

The mission of Power Africa, an initiative launched by President Barack Obama in 2013 and spearheaded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is to increase the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who have access to electricity.

More than 645 million Africans—more than twice the U.S. population—have no access to electricity, according to Power Africa’s primary partner in the region, the African Development Bank (AfDB). In 2016, the bank launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa (of which Power Africa is a part) with the goal of achieving universal access to energy in Africa by 2025.

The resource- and technology-neutral New Deal targets include the addition, by 2025, of

  • 160 gigawatts (GW) in on-grid generation capacity;
  • 130 million new on-grid transmission and grid connections (160 percent increase from 2016); and
  • 75 million off-grid generation connections (2,000 percent increase from 2016).

Where will these resources come from?  AfDB cites the continent’s richness in energy resources:

  • More than 10 terawatts (TW) of solar generation potential
  • 350 GW of hydroelectric potential
  • 110 GW of wind potential
  • 15 GW of geothermal potential

AfDB reports that these numbers do not include coal or gas, which can still provide some of the cheapest electricity.

Funding assistance to remove the risks in pursuing some of this potential currently comes from the U.S., as well as counterparts in Europe and elsewhere. From a U.S. perspective that to date has been focused on renewable energy, Power Africa uses a series of tools to “drive deals and facilitate investment” in the continent’s electricity sector, with the goals of adding 60 million new electricity connections and 30 GW of new generating capacity by 2030. Tools for achieving these goals include, but are not limited to, financing, policy/regulatory design and reform, and technical capacity building.

NEMA is cooperating with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to deliver standards knowledge and know-how to governments and electric utilities in the region through Power Africa’s Clean Energy Standards Partnership (CESP) program. (See page 30 of the August issue of electroindustry, “U.S.-Africa Energy Standards Program Launches.”)

In remarks to a U.S.-Africa business forum in September, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker cited Africa’s challenges and called on government and business “to redouble our shared commitment to solving problems, building new partnerships, promoting further regional integration, and finding new ways to plug all Africans into the global economy.”

Secretary Pritzker concluded, “Africa’s long-term prospects remain strong, and investing in the continent’s future continues to be good business.”

Read the December 2016 issue of electroindustry.

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