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Developing Countries

Mobile phone connections are more common than electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa

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How is it that there are more people in Sub-Saharan Africa with a mobile phone connection than any form of electricity? Over 700 million people across the region have a mobile phone, whereas only 450 million Africans have access to reliable electricity.

There are just under 600 million Africans without any form of power whatsoever, and there are now energy startups making a real difference to provide power to those without it. One of these companies is called Bboxx.

Bboxx ‘provides affordable, clean energy to off-grid communities in the developing world‘  and they have the ambition to electrify 20 million people over the world by 2020.

Their business model allows for customers to pay for electrification packages. These are a few dollars each month and provides solar panels, batteries and high-efficiency appliances to create their own off-grid electrical power.

Bboxx can work as an off-grid power source or can be complemented by on-grid base-load power for larger home appliances, such as fridges and televisions.

They are working with national governments across Africa to fit energy packages to households in the most remote parts of the continent, where on-grid power just cannot reach.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has asked Bboxx to supply 2.5 million connections to its off-grid citizens by 2020, and Togo has signed a contract for over 300,000 solar home kits by 2022.

Off-grid power is becoming more common across Sub-Saharan Africa and with companies such as Bboxx leading the way, it is only a matter of time until Africa reaches universal access.

Notwithstanding, off-grid power works very well in remote communities and villages, but Sub-Saharan African governments need to focus on providing cheap, affordable and reliable power by pushing for more public and private investment in coal, gas and oil power projects to set a sustainable base-load for all of their citizens.

Bangladesh is a key example of transforming their electricity output, having quadrupled their supply in the last ten years, meaning another 299 million Bangladeshis now have access to electricity.

It is only a matter of time until Sub-Saharan Africa follows suit.

First super-critical coal power plant almost completed in the Philippines

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The Philippines is about to add another 455MW coal-fired power station to its energy mix, pushing energy access to the remaining 2 million Filipinos that are currently left in the dark.

The San Buenaventura Power Plant in Mauban, Quezon, will be using the newest form of technology to help drive-down carbon emissions from coal power stations, the first of its kind in the Philippines. The 455MW plant has been fitted with supercritical technology, which helps to improve the efficiency of the power plant and reduce its overall carbon emissions.

The project is due to be completed in the next couple of months with an expected start date of producing electricity in early 2019.

As it stands, the World Bank reports that the Philippines currently enjoys an access to energy rate of 91%, meaning that there are still over 2.36 million households without any form of power, preventing businesses from growing, schools from teaching and Filipinos from being safe at night.

In spite of this, it is difficult to power the Philippines as they have over 7,600 islands, preventing on-grid power from reaching the most remote areas. However, the government has ensured that with the reducing costs of renewable energy, it will place a bigger emphasis on setting up off-grid networks for the harder to reach islands, enabling all of its citizens to receive the power they are entitled to.

In 2016, the Duterte government set out a national roadmap from 2016 to 2040 as a plan to reach universal energy access and to develop a sustainable energy system within the Philippines. As it stands, the energy mix of the country accounts for: coal (30%), hydro (20%), geothermal (10%), diesel (20%), natural gas (15%), and wind/solar (5%).

The government has included in its plan an ambition to increase its energy capacity by 19,000MW by 2040.

The Philippines is on a path to create a secure energy mix, but in order to reach the most remote islands, more emphasis will need to be placed on mini-grids supported by renewable technology, but backed up by a strong base load power from the country’s oil, gas and coal power plants.

The introduction of their new supercritical coal power plant next year will help to achieve their energy targets, and to provide electricity to the 2.3 million households currently left in the dark. But how will the government secure the extra 19,000MW needed to power its future?

East Africa is powering its own future

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The World Bank’s recent ‘Progress on Global Energy Goals‘ report has singled out East African countries for their progress and success in energy access. Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have all achieved a year on year 3% increase in energy access from 2010 to 2016.

But, this is not enough to help achieve worldwide universal access by 2030; one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

As it stands, over 1.1 billion people, 13% of the world’s population, do not have any form of electricity, and on the current trajectory by 2030 an estimated 674 million people will still be without electricity altogether. How can wealthy nations accelerate current projects to ensure we reach the UN goal?

We need to increase the base-load of power. This should come from both fossil fuels and renewable technology, but we should always prioritise on-grid power. This is vital to power the 87% of rural communities that are currently left in the dark.

It is unfair that rural communities are being left behind, with most of them located in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South Asia. How are they expected to run their businesses, power their shops or help to deliver education to their children?

Tanzania is an example of an East African country that is powering itself towards universal access. With help from the African Development Bank (AfDB) over $200 million has been invested in their power sector, helping to connect over 130,000 people and 18,000 businesses to the national grid.

With a significant amount of inward investment into Tanzania, they have set an ambitious target of producing over 10,000MW of electricity by 2025. They currently only have an installed capacity of 1,264MW,  with an energy access rate of just 32.8%.

Investment needs to increase in fossil fuel base-load projects otherwise we will not reach the 2030 target of universal electricity, especially with an increasing population.

Rwanda promises access to electricity to over 6 million citizens by the end of the financial year

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The Rwandan government has recently signed new contracts with energy agencies across the country in order to reach their target of an additional 6% of Rwandans connected to a power supply by the end of the financial year. This would increase access from the current 45% to 51%.

Electricity is the backbone of every country, as without it businesses would be unproductive, schools couldn’t teach and the economy would grind to a halt. Everyone across the world needs access to power in order to live their lives, and Rwanda is on the right path to securing it for all of their citizens.

Their target means that over 134,000 new households will be connected to the national grid and a further 68,000 households will be connected to off-grid power supplies.

Rwanda currently only produces 209MW, mostly from hydro and thermal power, leaving over 8 million out of the 12.5 million Rwandans without any form of electricity.

The government is heading in the right direction with a pledge to transform itself into a middle income country with universal access of electricity for all of its citizens by 2024. The plan is to split electricity access to 52% being connected to the grid and the further 48% rural communities being connected to off-grid technology.

However, Rwanda is six years off of its target for universal access to electricity, but more investment is required to strengthen their transmission networks to eradicate power outages, and more investment is required for power generation to connect an additional 8 million citizens to the grid.

By building more power plants, Rwanda would exceed its target of 512MW base-load power supply by 2024, and by focusing on cheaper reliable sources of power, this would enable the government to reach their target of universal access before 2024. However, without any further investment, Rwanda will be left behind compared to its neighbours in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mini-grids will not power Africa alone by 2030

Mini-grids will not power Africa alone by 2030

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Powering Africa and the developing world is a worldwide priority for developed countries and mini-grids are a suitable option for the most remote parts of the continent. However, mini-grids alone will not bring light and prosperity to all Africans.

The Africa Mini-grid Developers Association (AMDA) are in the process of launching a project to help up-scale mini grid projects across Africa. They require over $187 billion between now and 2030 to help reach universal energy access to electricity. In addition to this, the International Energy Agency has said that a separate amount of $391 billion will be required to fund on-grid technology alongside off-grid.

Off-grid technology is important to the future of the continent, but at such an expense it ought to be reconsidered as it will account for 48% of the total needed to invest in Africa to reach universal access by 2030.

Currently 600 million sub-Saharan Africans – two-thirds of the entire population – are without any form of electricity. Both on-grid and off-grid investment is needed but should it be at such an expense in the form of unreliable and costly renewable technology?

There is a general consensus agreed by the United Nations and 193 countries that every nation should reach universal energy access by 2030, but it is unlikely to be achieved in sub-Sahara Africa by this time.

India is an example of a country that has focused on universal energy access by using natural resources, prioritising giving electricity to all of its citizens before looking into alternative renewable technology. This has ensured that India is now on the cusp of achieving 100% access for all of its citizens in the next few years, way before the 2030 ambition.

Countries across Africa need to follow India and focus on promoting all forms of energy, both on and off-grid. However, it is vital that it is done in a way that does not mean a huge expense for relatively little reward in terms of energy generation.

African countries should prioritise the natural resources that each country harnesses and produce enough electricity so that their citizens can cook their dinner, read a book, walk the streets at night, enjoy their education, and so that they can run their own businesses. By improving energy access, you improve the economy of developing countries, and the lives of all of their citizens.

DFID pledges to spend aid budget more effectively

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The UK’s Department of International Development (DfID) is planning to spend the aid budget more effectively.

DfID’s Penny Mordaunt reiterated the government’s commitment to the 0.7 percent of GDP target, but stressed that the UK taxpayer expected better value for money on foreign aid.

Speaking at Chatham House’s London Conference, the Secretary of State told the crowd that: “we need to ensure that how we are meeting the 0.7 percent is sensible and works for the British public in the long-term, so we are focused on ensuring there is nothing that hinders the most effective use of these funds.”

It comes after DfID faced widespread condemnation for frivolous spending on Western consultants with some receiving the equivalent of £600 a day rather than on frontline assistance, or spending £9 million on an an Ethiopian ‘Spice Girls‘.

For Mordaunt, Britain’s role should be to fund projects which developing countries are unable to do themselves. It is essential to “build capacity” in these countries, such as energy, to ensure that these countries can create their own economic growth. That is why the construction of large-scale power plants are vital for development, with experts asserting that just one would create up to 800,000 jobs. That is why Japan, China and South Korea are all building fossil fuel power stations in some of the world’s poorest countries.

If the UK Government is serious about improving how it spends public money, it must be prepared to use the aid budget on large-scale infrastructure projects. Investing in energy capacity is one of the easiest ways to ensure that developing countries can stand on their two feet without assistance from the UK taxpayer.

 

 

Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

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The Kenya Standard has harsh words for Western environmentalists seeking to block Kenya’s plans for a new clean coal power station.

As previously reported, the new coal plant at Lamu on the eastern coast would supply Kenya with 30 percent of its power, and is seen as critical to the country’s plans to modernise and achieve universal electricity coverage. Both the EU and Western environmental groups have condemned the proposal, with the latter accused of hiring local activists to stir up opposition to the plant.

But the Standard has hit back, pointing out the hypocrisy of this stance:

“The lobby groups opposed to the exploitation of the vast deposits of coal with an estimated value of over Sh3.4 trillion [US$34 billion] are largely funded by interest groups in countries that were industrialised using coal power.”

The paper also says that high cost of electricity is a major hurdle for Kenya’s plans to industrialise, with energy costs accounting for a third of manufacturing expenses. And as we and others have repeatedly explained, renewables cannot deliver a manufacturing industry. The blast furnace powered by wind has yet to be invented.

For Western environmentalists sitting in air conditioned offices, the central moral question is this: why should Kenya have to forgo development because the West has spent a century and a half pumping pollution into the air?

Laos backs clean coal partnership with neighbours

Laos backs clean coal partnership with neighbours

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The small southeast nation of Laos has announced it wants to team up with its neighbours to develop clean coal technology.

The announcement came from Dr Daovong Phoneko, the most senior official in the Ministry of Energy, speaking at the 16th ASEAN Forum on Coal Council Meeting in the Lao capital Vientiane.

ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, represents a combined population of 640 million people across 10 member states, and is the third biggest investor in coal worldwide after China and India.

The ASEAN countries have been strong advocates for continued use of the fuel, which has helped poorer member states leapfrog up the energy access table in recent years. Indonesia, for example, drove up the rate of energy access from 53 percent of its population in 2000 to 91 percent today, while over the same period Vietnam rose from 76 percent to 98 percent. Almost all of this expansion came from coal plants, which is cheap, locally available, and can provide reliable 24/7 power.

Laos, one of the least developed members of the bloc, still relies largely on hydropower for its energy needs, which has meant a shortfall of electricity during the dry season. At the conference Dr Daovong said that developing the energy sector in Laos would generate much-needed funding for other key development sectors like healthcare and education.

ASEAN’s Clean Coal Action Plan, launched in 2015, is focused on sharing technology and expertise in the fields of clean coal and carbon capture and storage. Like other ASEAN members, Laos views this technology as the only way to power its economy and meet global climate targets.

Coming after Kenya’s announcement of a new clean coal power plant, and news that clean coal is a central part of China’s Belt and Road ambitions, it’s clear that developing countries with large populations to feed are increasingly prepared to defy Western attempts to prohibit the fuel.

Energy access in 2018 – here’s what you need to know

Energy access in 2018 – here’s what you need to know

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Do you have access to reliable electricity in your home? Over a billion people are still living in the dark, forced to make do with dim and dirty fuels for lighting and cooking, placing an intolerable burden on their health, prosperity and quality of life. It’s why the UN has earmarked universal electricity access as one its key Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

So how is the world getting on?

A new report tracking progress has just been published by a host of global institutions, including the International Energy Agency, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. It provides an extremely useful statistical overview of what’s working and where the world is falling short.

Here are the key findings:

1. The world is not on track to meet the 2030 target

On current trends, 8 percent of the global population will not have access to electricity by 2030. That means yet another generation growing up in the dark, overwhelmingly in sub-Saharan Africa.

2. Good news in Latin America and India

Three quarters of Latin American countries are on track to achieve universal access by 2020. The region will have achieved near universal access by 2030, with the exception of Haiti which will have 90 percent access rate.

Coal-powered India is the star of the show on energy access, providing electricity to 30 million people a year between 2010 and 2016 – more than any other country in the world.

3. A mixed picture in sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have made significant progress, increasing access rates by over 3 percent a year between 2010 and 2016. However other African countries languish far behind, with South Sudan at the bottom of the table on just 9 percent with access to power.

4. But grounds for optimism – we know what works

“The experience of countries that have substantially increased the number of people with electricity in a short space of time holds out real hope that we can reach the billion people who still live without power,” says Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank and one of the authors of the report.

He adds, “We know that with the right policies, a commitment to both grid electrification and off-grid solutions like solar home systems, well-tailored financing structures, and mobilization of the private sector, huge gains can be made in only a few years.”

Investment in Africa’s energy sector is essential to unlock the continent's potential

Investment in Africa’s energy sector is essential to unlock the continent’s potential

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Investment in energy supplies and infrastructure is essential for the development of Africa, which is set to see its population grow to 2 billion by 2050 – over half of the global population.

Africa has incredible economic prospects but a lack of access to electricity is preventing it from reaching its potential.

According to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, there are close to 600 million people on the continent living without access to electricity and a huge amount living on the edge of poverty.

Secure supplies and infrastructure would provide a significant step in reducing this number, but current levels of investment are too low and are far from the estimated $1.5 trillion needed between now and 2050 to enhance Africa’s power sector.

Funding for power stations and electricity grids are essential in lifting the most vulnerable out of poverty and providing opportunities for African economies to grow.

In an opinion piece for The Financial Times, Nick Butler a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, said: “Access to energy provides the first step in the ladder of development — without heat, light or mobility there is little chance of an escape from poverty.”

If the World Bank and the western world want to regain credibility they must listen to developing countries and lift restrictions on the one thing that we know for sure delivers economic growth: affordable, reliable baseload electricity.