US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has promised that the US is ready to help expand electricity access across Africa, including from fossil fuels.
Speaking at a regional energy conference in South Africa, Mr Perry argued it was time to break the “culture of shame” around fossil fuels and use new technology to make them cleaner.
Mr Perry said he was concerned about the low levels of electricity access across Africa, where 600 million people still live without power – a number which is predicted to remain unchanged, even by 2030:
“Development starts when you have a power supply,” he said, adding that Washington is prepared to help countries develop their energy systems “from all sources.”
Leaders in Africa have previously stressed the need for a pragmatic approach to power generation. In a speech earlier this year, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said:
“Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.”
Mr Perry was also critical of multilateral development banks like the World Bank, which currently restrict funding for fossil fuel projects in the poorest countries, warning that it was time for them to “take their thumb off the scale” and prioritise access to affordable power.
Rather than try to restrict access to fossil fuels, the US is banking on new technology like carbon capture and storage, which experts which experts say will be essential for the fight against climate change.
“We will invest in African energy projects, but it’s also time to let technology be your friend”, Mr Perry said.
“We will help this continent make more power, and we will do it cleanly.”