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AfDB welcomes Japan’s offer of advanced coal technology

By | Affordable electricity | No Comments

The African Development Bank (AfDB)’s director general for East Africa has warmly welcomed Japan’s plans to provide East African countries with the latest ultra-efficient coal technology.

In July, Japan launched the Japan-Africa Energy Initiative in partnership with the AfDB, a $6 billion aid programme which aims to help deliver universal electricity access in Africa by the ambitious date of 2025.

Responding to the announcement, the AfDB’s East Africa DG Gabriel Negatu said: “We seek to support the small and medium players who want to join the regional energy sector under Japan’s Light up and Power Africa initiative, which aims to enable regional countries achieve universal access to energy by 2025, using available energy sources and the most advanced technologies.”

East Africa is home to some of the world’s worst energy poverty. The most recent figures show that national electrification rates stand at only 25% in Ethiopia, 20% in Kenya and 19% in Uganda. Factories go unbuilt, babies are delivered by torchlight, while women and girls have to spend long hours fetching fuel and water by hand.

However unlike Western-led multilateral development banks, the AfDB takes a more pragmatic stance on the use of coal to bring power to energy starved populations.

Kenya recently reached an agreement with the Bank to build a new 1000MW coal plant, arguing that it needs to generate at least 30,000MW to fully industrialise.

Where Japan can make a real impact is in supplying these countries with the latest higher efficiency lower emissions (HELE) coal technology. According to the the International Energy Agency, HELE plants can reduce emissions by up to 40 percent compared to the least efficient systems. As one of the world’s biggest coal users, Japan has been a driving force behind the technology.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina has also praised Japan’s involvement, saying: “Japan has answered our call to make it easier for African governments to adopt a balanced energy mix of all available energy sources and technologies, including the best low-emitting clean coal technologies.”


The US position on multilateral development bank finance for fossil fuels is “pro-poor” and “pro US jobs”

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

With a chronic lack of affordable, reliable energy one of the biggest obstacles to tackling poverty in the developing world, experts have come out in support of the US announcement to call for an end to World Bank restrictions on finance for new fossil fuel projects in the poorest countries.

Dan Runde of the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), a Washington-based think tank specialising in international development, called the US position a “pro-poor” and “pro-US jobs”.

Africa is home to 16 percent of the global population but only produces 3 percent of the world’s electricity. 140 years since Edison invented the lightbulb, two in three people living in sub-Saharan Africa still have no access to the grid.

Yet despite the scale of the problem, international development institutions like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank continue to impose severe restrictions on funding for fossil fuel power in the poorest countries.

According to Runde this could be about to change. He says that developing countries are determined to use their natural resources, “just as the US and other rich countries do”, and that there is significant international support for financing new fossil fuel projects.

“If Japan and the U.S. plus poor countries encourage this policy at the board level, it will happen,” he added.

Aid Expert: If we don’t solve energy poverty, Africa will become a “continent on fire”

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

“Africa is literally the dark continent because so few people have the lights on. Better we sort that before it becomes a continent on fire.”

That’s the dire warning issued by Dr Sylvanus Ayeni, a Nigerian-born aid expert, who, as a former neurosurgeon, has direct experience of Africa’s energy-starved healthcare system.

The numbers are stark. Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – two thirds of the continent – currently lack access to electricity. Meanwhile populations are exploding, with the number of people living in the region expected to more than double to 2.4 billion by mid-century.

In a recent interview, Dr Ayeni said that Africa’s chronic power shortage is driving ever more young people into the arms of people smugglers or armed militias.

“When you have no power, you can’t set up factories, run hotels, do homework, keep vaccines chilled at a clinic or even pump water efficiently. In short, you have no hope of a better life,” Ayeni says.

“And with the resultant poverty and unemployment, young people have few options,” he continues.

“Why do you think millions are striking out to cross the Mediterranean while others join gangs or militia? Ask yourself what you would do if you lived in such misery.”

But time is running short Dr Ayeni warns:

“Africa is urbanising perhaps faster than anywhere on the planet, and in our cities unemployment can reach 70%, especially among the youth. If we don’t find something for these people to do, we face a bloody revolution worse than anything in history.”

For Dr Ayeni, a solution has to be delivered fast, and in a way that works for Africa. That means making use of Africa’s abundant natural resources, rather than importing renewables from abroad.

“What’s the point of spending scarce foreign exchange to import solar panels or wind turbines for oil-rich countries like Angola or Nigeria?,” he asks.

“Or to Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa with billions of tons of coal in the ground.”

African Development Bank breaks ranks with the World Bank to back coal in Kenya

By | Kenya | No Comments

The African Development Bank is in in talks with Kenya to part-fund the construction of a new coal plant, bank officials revealed this week.

Kenya has some of the most ambitious energy plans of sub-Saharan African country, and is aiming to bring electricity to 95% of the population by 2020.

The national electrification rate stood at just 20 percent in 2014, according to the IEA.

The new coal plant on the island of Lamu would add 1 gigawatt of baseload energy to Kenya’s national grid, providing round-the-clock power to a country that is desperate to industrialise.

To mitigate the environmental impact, it will employ the latest Chinese “supercritical” technology, which produces less CO2 per unit of energy.

Kenya’s government are pursuing a balanced energy mix, and have also sought to exploit the country’s abundant geothermal resources. Ministers accept however that renewables alone will not be able to supply power on the scale needed to develop the economy.

“Given that Kenya requires over 30 gigawatts to be an industrialised nation, we require all kinds of sources of power”, Energy Minister Charles Keter said in May.

The African Development Bank, which is helping to fund the project in partnership with the private sector, has taken a more pragmatic view on coal than western counterparts such as the World Bank.

“Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has,” AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said. “Endowed with many different energy sources – both renewable and conventional – Africa needs a balanced energy mix.”

He added: “This must include renewable and conventional sources of power.”

UK should follow Japan on energy

By | Developing Countries | One Comment

The Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May is this week visiting Japan.

Although the continued aggression by North Korea is set to dominate, it is expected that the Mrs May and her counterpart Shinzo Abe will discuss trade between the UK and Japan.

Japan has for years been heeding the calls of leaders in the developing nations by funding fossil fuel projects in some of the world’s poorest countries.

It has been providing the latest coal fired technology to alleviate energy poverty, which improves the lives of the poor and allows developing countries to grow their economies.

This is something that has long been asked for by leaders in the developing world.

This year Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for a ten-fold increase in power production in sub-Saharan Africa, telling the West that African governments must be allowed to use every available energy source.

Nigeria, where 98 million people are trying to scrape by a living in the dark, has been forthright on the need to use of its own resources.

“We have an existential need for power in this country and we have to do something about it, and we can get power from coal which we have in abundance” Nigeria’s Minerals Minister Dr Kayode Fayemi told reporters in April.

The UK should look at how Japan assists people in the developing world who do not have access to reliable and affordable electricity.

The US is also now looking to utilise modern fossil fuel technology to allow developing countries to progress and build their economies.

It is time for other countries – like the UK – to follow suit.

The US is backing calls for an end to restrictions on fossil fuels in the poorest countries

By | Developing Countries | No Comments

The United States has announced it will now support developing countries’ calls to stop the World Bank restricting the funding of fuel power stations in the poorest countries.

The move will be welcomed by leaders across the developing world, who have long argued for a more pragmatic approach to bringing electricity to the 1.2 billion who live without it.
This year Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called for a ten-fold increase in power production in sub-Saharan Africa, telling the West that African governments must be allowed to use every available energy source. He said: “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs”.

Nigeria, where 98 million people are trying to scrape by a living in the dark, has been forthright on the need to use of its own resources.

“We have an existential need for power in this country and we have to do something about it, and we can get power from coal which we have in abundance” Nigeria’s Minerals Minister Dr Kayode Fayemi told reporters in April.

Like Kofi Annan, Dr Akinwunde Adesina, head of the African Development Bank, has also urged his Western counterparts to take a more balanced approach: “Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has. Endowed with many different energy sources – both renewable and conventional – Africa needs a balanced energy mix.”

Leaders of developing countries and western experts have long argued that the West got rich on fossil fuels, so it cannot in good conscience deny cheap and reliable power to the poorest nations. Latest figures show that the United States generates two thirds of its electricity from fossil fuels. And this winter it will use more of that power on Christmas lights than everyone in Tanzania – homes, businesses and hospitals – consumes all year.

Current World Bank chief Jim Kim has himself acknowledged that Africa’s vast power deficit is a kind of “energy apartheid” and that fixing it will require pragmatism.

“If some people have taken a position where we say no coal, no nuclear, no hydro, then we’re really not serious,”.

The UN has reported that levels of electricity consumption have barely improved in Africa since the year 2000. The World Bank was set up to help starving and war-shattered countries provide for their people and stand on their own two feet, but in recent years progress has gone backwards, with the number of people in sub-sahraran Africa without access to electricity increasing by millions a year. America’s new stance is a welcome shift. Other countries should follow the US lead.

Confirmed: Coal to remain central to poverty reduction in Philippines

By | Phillipines | No Comments

New research shows that coal will remain the primary energy source used to develop the Philippines for the next ten years.

A report by Fitch Group’s BMI Research found that “growth in the Philippines power infrastructure sector over the next 10 years will be driven by investment in coal-fired generating capacity, as companies and the government build a slew of new power plants to support growing electricity demand.”

Based on current projects in the pipeline, the research found that the Philippines power sector will grow by 10% a year up till 2026, with the vast majority of that growth supplied by coal.

Like several other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has adopted a pragmatic approach to energy policy, with Energy Minster Alfonso Cusi stating that “while all countries have an obligation to combat climate change, we also have a particular responsibility to our people.”

Mr Cusi believes that developing countries should not be “constrained by rigid or arbitrary targets in sourcing our energy”, and has stressed that renewables “remain unaffordable in comparison to conventional energy sources.”

“This may not be an issue for consumers in wealthy countries, but poses a struggle for those in developing nations,” Mr Cusi said.

Japan and China are growing their own economies by helping the fastest growing countries access cheap and reliable power

By | Affordable electricity, Indonesia | No Comments

New analysis shows that China and Japan are making billions helping other Asian countries access cheap and reliable power. So why isn’t the UK?

A recent study of the Indonesian energy sector revealed that 18 of the 22 coal-fired power plants built there since 2010 had been financed by Chinese or Japanese development assistance.

Indonesia, which has a population of 260 million, is desperate for energy to power its growing economy. The World Bank estimates it needs to create at least 1.7 million jobs a year for the young people entering its workforce, requiring large amounts of baseload electricity (which can’t be provided by weather-dependent renewables). For Indonesia, cheap and locally abundant coal is the fuel of choice.

China and Japan have stepped up to provide assistance, partly to help a key trading partner but also to support their own manufacturers – which are providing Indonesia with the latest “ultra-supercritical” technology.

By boosting the efficiency by which energy is extracted from coal, these power plants produce significantly less carbon dioxide than older systems. One recent study found that if every country in Southeast Asia moved to upgrade its coal plants with this technology, the equivalent annual carbon emissions of China, the US and the EU could be saved by 2035.

The UK and US also have expertise in this technology, but have so far failed to capitalise on it because of official restrictions on funding for coal power. However, with the US now signaling it’s prepared to support the pragmatic use of coal in energy poor countries, the UK’s stance looks increasingly dogmatic.

The reality is that countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar are relying on coal to develop their economies and bring electricity to their people. We can either help them do so in the cleanest possible way or sit by while other nations win trade and influence.

Energy hypocrisy: Hydro-powered Germany tells Tanzania it can’t have a new hydroelectric dam

By | Developing Countries | 3 Comments

Germany has told Tanzania it should not be building a new hydroelectric dam, despite Tanzania having some of the worst rates of electricity access anywhere in the world.

The planned 2 gigawatt dam at Steiglers Gorge about 60 kilometers southwest of Dar-es-Salam, would increase Tanzania’s electricity generating capacity by 150 percent. In a country where 36 million people – two thirds of the population – still don’t have electricity access, this would be a massive boost to jobs and living standards.

Tanzania’s President Magufuli recently signed an agreement to bring in technical experts from Ethiopia, which is putting the finishing touches to Africa’s largest hydro-project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile.

However Germany’s ambassador to Tanzania has said that President Magufuli must “reconsider” his plans, citing the environmental impact that Steiglers Gorge would have on a surrounding game reserve.

It’s another example of a rich Western country telling an African nation it can’t use its own natural resources to develop. Germany currently consumes 7000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year per person, compared to just 99 kilowatt hours per person for Tanzania. And as Germany itself has 11 gigawatts of its own hydro-power installed, it’s also deeply hypocritical.

Those who say “let them use wind and solar” ignore the importance of baseload power. As Germany well knows, wind and solar on their own can’t provide the round-the-clock power that a modern economy needs. It’s why baseload sources of energy like gas, coal, nuclear and hydro are so important: you need a base of guaranteed electricity to smooth out the variations in wind and solar production.

Tanzania argue that claims of irreversible damage to the reserve are groundless, since the Steiglers Gorge project would cover just 3% of the total game reserve area.

“Come rain, come sun, Stieglers Gorge hydroelectric dam must be constructed,” President Magufuli. “We are not going to listen to people who speak about impacts on environment without facts on the grounds.”


“We choose development” – Energy poor Myanmar defends coal plans

By | Affordable electricity | No Comments

One of Myanmar’s top politicians has defended his country’s coal plans, saying “If we have to chose between the dilemma of coal and the development of the country, we choose the development.”

The plans include a $3bn coal-fired power plant.

Win Htein, one of the leaders from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which campaigned for years against Myanmar’s military dictatorship, said alternatives such as hydropower would take time whereas coal was ideal for the country’s urgent energy demand.

Myanmar has 49 planned hydro power projects. These have however been beset by problems.

Currently only 32 percent of the country have access to electricity, meaning Myanmar remains one of Asia’s poorest countries. A single coal-fired power station planned in Kayin, eastern Myanmar, would increase the country’s electricity generation by 25 percent. The Thai company in charge of the project intend to use the supercritical coal technology common in Japan and South Korea to curb emissions.

The project is one of 11 planned coal plants.

Win Htein joins a growing chorus of leaders in the developing world who are calling for the West to back the pragmatic use of coal in electricity-starved countries while renewable technology matures.