Africa: Electricity Initiative Reaches 70 Million People

opinion

Power Africa, a five-year American presidential initiative launched by former President Barack Obama, has reportedly created 15 million new electrical connections bringing electricity to 70 million people.

The US government-led initiative that aims to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, was launched in 2013. It has a goal to add 30,000 megawatts of new power generation and 60 million new electrical connections by 2030. From a total number of 886,995 new on-grid connections, Power Africa has helped establish, 10,976 new connections in Ethiopia since 2013.

Blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources, Ethiopia has the potential to generate over 60,000 Megawatts of electric power from hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal resources. However, Ethiopia currently generates approximately 4,170 Megawatts with a population of 100 million people.

In a bid to be classified as a middle income country by 2025, the country has set goals which include aggressive power generations and connection targets. In this regard, Ethiopia plans to increase renewable power production to meet both domestic needs and export obligations.

On November 6, 2019, Power Africa has released its annual report for 2019. Regarding this, Andrew M. Herscowitz, coordinator for Power Africa, gave a telephonic press briefing on November 6, 2019.

During the briefing, Herscowitz said: "Our initiative was originally designed to drive economic growth and keep African countries on a rapid growth trajectory, realizing that the power sector was a key constraint to economic growth. However, we recognize there are about 550 million people who do not have access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa."

"To date, the nearly 15 million new electrical connections we've helped achieve both on-grid and off-grid, brings electricity to nearly 70 million people," he added.

According to the report, 124 power generation projects have reached financial close that will comprise over 10,000 megawatts of new power generation. Of those projects, 56 of them have actually been commissioned, which have already added over 3,000 megawatts of new power generation.

Explaining about this, the coordinator said: "The 124 power projects that have reached financial close are worth over USD 20 billion. The commitments that we've received from our public and private sector partners are over USD 54 billion. This is the largest public-private partnership for development that we're aware of in history."

Asked about the price difference between now and then, Herscowitz said that "It used to be that, a company would come into a country and offer to build a power project for 20- 25 cents per kilowatt hour, and people would sign those power purchasing agreements. But what we've done through our support of public tenders in many countries across the continent, is that we've built the capacity of governments to run auction programs which have really driven down the price of power."

Further explaining this in examples he said: "The IFC and the World Bank Scaling Solar program that we've supported achieved about 100 megawatts of solar power in Zambia and the price is ranging between six and eight cents per kilowatt hour. Then in Senegal, we saw prices come in below five cents per kilowatt hour. And more recently in Ethiopia, we're seeing between three and four cents per kilowatt hour."

Asked about the issue they face, the coordinator said that "The issue we found is in driving down prices and getting governments to sign-up more agreements. The demand that's projected isn't going to keep-up with the new power generation, yet you still have over 500 million people who don't have access to electricity."

Describing the projects undertaken in Ethiopia, he said that "We have been working hard on Corbetti and the Tulu-Moye geothermal projects for seven years now and we are hoping that this year, these projects are finally going to reach financial close, which will have a significant impact because they would be the first privately funded power projects to reach a financial close."

Power Africa brings together technical, legal experts, the private sector, and governments from around the world to work in partnerships, to increase the number of people with access to power.

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