According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030.
Committing more than $7 billion in U.S. government support and attracting nearly three-times that in private sector funding, Power Africa, which launched in October 2013, marks a milestone for President Obama with regard to action on climate change and clean energy, not to mention foreign relations and international development. The initiative gives the U.S. a leadership role in addressing a range of critical regional and global issues – eradicating poverty, improving health and gender equality, opening up economic opportunity and conserving ecosystems and natural resources as well as promoting clean, renewable energy. In this regard the program dovetails nicely with the U.N.’s expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its new strategic Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative.
After just one year, committed Power Africa projects were predicted to provide enough electricity to power more than 5 million African homes, businesses, schools, and clinics – one-quarter of the program’s goal. Momentum continues to rise. Last August President Obama announced tripled the Power Africa goal to installing an aggregate 30,000 MW of new sustainable generation capacity and expanding access to electricity to at least 60 million households and businesses across all 28 sub-Saharan African nations. In addition, he pledged the U.S. would raise monetary support for Power Africa to $300 million per year.
Leading The Charge Towards Sustainable Energy Access
USAID is the lead agency responsible for coordinating Power Africa projects and activities, which span 12 U.S. government agencies, those of participating African governments, that of the Swedish government and 100+ private sector program partners, according to Audi Raval, USAID senior communications adviser for Power Africa. (Image credit: ENCA)
The Obama administration is “trying to implement a new model of development” in emerging-market countries, he explained, one focused on private-sector participation and capacity building. “We’re trying to break down barriers (between and within public and private sector partners in multiateral development programs) by sharing resources and filling in gaps in capacity – legal, financial, technological, operational – so as to significantly improve overall likelihood of success,” he said.
Raval cited the Ethiopia Corbetti Geothermal power project, which could produce as much as 1,000 MW of baseload electrical power, as one example of the kinds of large, utility-scale renewable energy projects Power Africa is facilitating. A partnership between the government of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation andReykjavik Geothermal, Corbetti Geothermal is “the first fully privatized project of its kind in Ethiopia,” he pointed out.
In renewing the U.S. commitment and expanding Power Africa President Obama also announced $6 billion in new private-sector commitments. In addition to other Power Africa initiatives, these facilitated the launch of the $2 million Beyond the Grid sub-program, the overarching goal of which is to foster “private investment in off-grid and small-scale energy solutions that seek to expand access to remote areas across sub-Saharan Africa.” Forty private-sector companies are participating in Beyond the Grid including Silicon Valley high-tech leaders such as Vinod Khosla.