US Power Africa sets ambitious 2030 targets for power generation across the continent

US Power Africa sets ambitious 2030 targets for power generation across the continent

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria | One Comment

The Power Africa initiative set up by the US Agency for International Development has recently published its ‘Transmission Roadmap to 2030‘, setting out ambitious targets and plans in order to reach the 600 million Africans without access to electricity.

Without reliable electricity, people all across Africa struggle to go about their daily lives. Developed countries take 24/7 power for granted, with supply outstripping demand.

Sub-Saharan Africa countries cannot take this liberty; they do not have the supply nor power generation, but there is for sure the demand for reliable electricity, and the Power Africa programme is helping to bridge the gap between demand and supply.

By 2030, the Power Africa Initiative hopes to; create an additional 60 million new connections, connecting Africans to the grid for the first time; increase power generation by 30,000MW; install an additional 7,500MW of transmission capacity; and, build an additional 5,000km of transmission lines across Africa.

In addition to this, the project hopes to bring 10 priority power projects to a financial close. This includes creating a central corridor from South Africa to the DRC, integrating Malawi and Namibia into the power pool; and it also includes addressing power deficits in landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso.

Today, Power Africa is currently tracking over 800 power generation projects across Sub-Saharan Africa, all of which could be built by 2030.

The future is looking likely to bring light to the 600 million Africans that are currently left in the dark, but with population increases, the advances made in electricity generation will not keep up with demand.

However, projects like this go a long way in securing a future for millions of Africans left behind by the west and the developed world. Universal access to electricity is a United Nations’s sustainable development goal, but unless a significant financial increase is made into baseload power, these countries will never be pushed out of poverty.

Baseload is vital as it provides uninterruptible 24/7 power and is the only way to build significant supply for an ever-increasing demand. Only the future will tell if developed countries are taking their commitments on the UN’s sustainable development goals seriously enough.

Africa is being left in the dark whilst the rest of the world enjoys reliable electricity

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Across the world over 1.1 billion people are still without any form of electricity whatsoever. That means that children are being taught in dark unlit schools; citizens are walking the streets after light, raising questions of safety; and, businesses have to close early throughout the winter period as daylight runs out far too quickly.

How is it that as we progress into 2019, over 1.1 billion people in the world still have no access to electricity? That cannot be right.

And of that 1.1 billion, almost 95% of people live in Sub-Saharan Africa and the developing countries in Asia.

That being said, the electrification rate in Africa has increased since 2011, now standing at 43%, but it has struggled to keep up with the population increases found across the continent.

At the turn of the millennium Africa had over 817 million people living across the continent, but fast-forward to 2018 over 1.3 billion people now reside there. However, during the same time, only 200 million Africans were connected to the grid for the first time.

It is clear that there are significant electricity generation advances across Africa but population growth is seriously outstripping electricity generation by a very wide-margin.

There is not just a poor electricity generation rate across Africa, but there is also a disparity between African countries that are very close to universal access to power and those that are so far behind that they won’t achieve that milestone for many decades to come.

Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt are all past the 90% electrification rate, whereas 15 African countries are below the 25% mark. A quarter of all those without power come from Nigeria, Angola, Sudan and Ethiopia- some of the most populous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Naturally, there are difficulties in African nations securing significant sums of money by domestic and international companies to build new and improved power plants, albeit with fossil fuels or renewable energy.

But they should not be left behind!

Every citizen of the world deserves access to electricity and the time to act is now. The only way for countries to secure quick, reliable and uninterruptible power is for governments to prioritise investment in power generation using the cheapest and most widely available technologies – whether that is hydro, gas, coal or renewables.

African Leaders: World Bank should allow developing countries to use fossil fuels

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

The president of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim has been contacted by various African leaders urging him to relax the international bank’s rules on financing fossil fuel power plants in developing countries.

African leaders are annoyed at the ignorance of western countries whom have dictated to developing countries around the world, but especially in Africa, that they are not entitled to any fossil fuel baseload power.

These leaders feel that they are entitled to the same rights and privileges that western countries are entitled to, and they make the argument that they are not responsible for most of the carbon already polluted in the air, so why should they be held back it securing electricity for the 600 million Africans without any form of power.

Collectively, African leaders sent a message to Mr Kim ahead of his recent visit to Indonesia. They said, “You’re outraged by climate change, we have almost no responsibility for putting the carbon in the air and yet you’re telling us we can’t develop and have baseload energy because we can’t use a single drop of fossil fuel for our own energy needs.”

In response, Mr Kim said, “We feel that you have to listen to the social justice arguments from people from poor countries who have not put any of the carbon in the air and want to have baseload.”

Current technology today can significantly reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the air, so the argument the World Bank is making is a non-starter in the eyes of many organisations and institutions around the world.

It will be interesting to see if the World Bank will change their patriarchal edict preventing finance for fossil fuel power generation projects, giving African leaders the ability and freedom to secure uninterruptible 24/7 electricity for all of their citizens.

Hydropower has a key part to play in unlocking electricity for Africa’s 600 million

By | Affordable electricity, Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Over 139 years has passed since the creation of the lightbulb by Thomas Edison , but yet there are over 1.2 billion people globally, and 600 million in Africa without any form of electricity, meaning no lightbulbs to do school work, working at night, or to keep them safe whilst walking the streets.

It is well known that there just isn’t enough electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. As countries and industries attempt to keep up with demand, the population rate across the continent exceeds any advances made.

The World Bank reported that between 2014 to 2016, 76 million people across Africa were connected to electricity for the first time, but at the same time the population grew by 55 million people. So the net amount of people connected was only 21 million over two years, meaning that the 600 million figure has hardly changed in the last two years.

The African Development Bank has indicated that in order for the situation to change the continent needs to expand energy generation by a minimum of 6% per year by 2040. As it stands, Sub-Saharan Africa enjoys 170GW of energy capacity, which is equivalent to that of Germany.

This needs to change.

Hydropower is one of the sources in which is being tipped to change the future for Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, the region only has 27GW from hydroelectric power, but there are plans to introduce another 31GW by 2030.

Most countries that make up the region have long heavy flowing rivers in which they are turning towards to create dams in order to generate vital electricity.

But, the UK think tank, the Grantham Institute, has indicated that hydropower alone will not secure the continent’s future due to concerns over flooding or droughts.

Angola, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan have all pledged to increase their hydropower energy capacity, as has Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This includes two more units at the 2,070MW Lauca hydropower station, the largest of its kind in Angola.

Hydropower appears to be one of the main sources that will help power Africa’s future, but it is pertinent to not only just invest in this source of electricity. Africa as a continent is resource rich with the likes of oil, gas and coal.

With a healthy combination of all of these types of power generation sources, Africa and in particular, Sub-Saharan Africa will be able to provide electricity to the remaining 600 million people who desperately need this life-changing resource.

Economist: Africans consuming less electricity now than in the 80s

Economist: Africans consuming less electricity now than in the 80s

By | Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

According to the World Bank, the proportion of Africans with access to electricity increased from 19% in 1991 to 37% in 2014. But as a recent article in the Economist points out, this is nowhere near as impressive as it seems.

More people than ever may be connected to the grid, but they are not consuming more electricity. In 2014 each African consumed, on average, just 483 kilowatt hours (kWh). That is less than in the 1980s.

By contrast, Americans use 13,000 kWh each on average. Indeed, in the West, a typical family fridge consumes several times more power than a whole family of Nigerians.

As the Economist says:

“Some greens may hail such frugality. They should not: the alternative to electricity is often filthy, dangerous charcoal stoves and kerosene lamps. Besides, if utilities are unable to sell enough electricity to cover their costs then they cannot invest in maintaining or modernising their grids.”

Worldwide, power consumption is strongly correlated to GDP. The more electricity you use, the richer your country is likely to be. Yet this is not the case in Africa, where many countries use less power than their national incomes would suggest.

According to the Economist, this is because Africa has so little of the world’s manufacturing and heavy industries, who are the biggest consumers of electricity. In turn that keeps demand for power low in the rest of the economy. Without industrialisation and the good jobs it brings, ordinary Africans just can’t afford more electricity.

It’s why an approach to energy access which stresses small-scale solar powered solutions – while the ignoring the needs of industrial consumers – is unlikely to do much to alleviate poverty. To power Africa, all forms of energy will have to be used.

Energy investment in Africa fell by $14 billion during 2016

Energy investment in Africa fell by $14 billion during 2016

By | Developing Countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

Financing of energy projects in Africa fell by $14billion in 2016, according to a report from the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA).

Established at the 2005 G8 Summit, the ICA is an international NGO that advocates for greater infrastructure development in Africa.

The report shows that public and private investment in energy fell from a historic high of 33.5 billion in 2015 to $20 billion in 2016, including the World Bank, which cut its spending by $800 million.

600 million Africans currently live without electricity, and this number is expected to rise to remain stubbornly unchanged, even by 2030. Investment cannot fall if we are to guarantee secure and affordable energy access to the world’s poorest.

As the World Bank themselves have said, the advantages of universal energy access would bring enormous benefits: 1.5 trillion extra hours of paid work, savings of $38 billion on kerosene and charcoal, and 300 million school-aged children studying in better conditions.

US Energy Secretary: we’re here to help Africa use fossil fuels and use them cleanly

US Energy Secretary: we’re here to help Africa use fossil fuels and use them cleanly

By | Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa | No Comments

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.”

Ghana’s One District One Factory industrialisation drive will depend on reliable power

By | Ghana | No Comments

Ghana’s government has just launched major drive to transform the country’s economy. Dubbed One District One Factory, the plan is to build a new factory in each of Ghana’s 216 local government districts.

In a country where around 48 percent of young people do not have work, the government’s industrialisation plan is seen as vital for tackling youth unemployment.

Dr Yaw Ansu, of the African Center for Economic Transformation, a leading African think tank, warned last year that if not addressed properly unemployment could pose serious security challenges.

“When about three-quarters of your people are without jobs, you’re not safe. It’s a time bomb”, Dr Ansu said at a conference on the issue.

But to deliver on One Factory One District, Ghana will need to ensure that it has a secure supply of reliable, affordable electricity.

Currently a third of the country still lacks power, while those that do have to put up with regular blackouts and power shortages, known locally as “dumsor”. The dumsor problem makes it difficult to attract international companies to come and build factories, as it means production is constantly interrupted.

The unreliability of the electricity supply is one of the major causes of Ghana’s high unemployment. At the peak of the most recent dumsor crisis in 2015, the country experienced 159 days of blackouts, leading to massive job losses and missed economic targets.

Although renewables can help, they won’t solve this problem on their own. Wind and solar, being dependent on wind speeds and sunlight, aren’t capable of providing the uninterrupted, power supply that a modern factory needs.

For Ghana’s economy to succeed, it will need a sensible mix of fuels able to provide round- the-clock energy, just like in Western countries. This is the only way to create the jobs and opportunity that the country’s youth are waiting for.


Ghana must find affordable ways to power the economy

By | Ghana | No Comments

Ghana’s power supply is notoriously unreliable, with households and businesses regularly plunged into darkness without warning. This has been hugely damaging for the Ghanaian economy and is costing the country over $600 million a year in lost jobs and failed businesses.

Patrick Asare is a Ghana-born energy expert based in the US. We wanted to share his latest article about how Ghana can solve its job-destroying power shortages.

The goal in Ghana, he writes:

“…Must be to find affordable ways to provide electricity to power the economy and provide jobs for the millions of unemployed and under-employed youth.

However, Asare is sharply critical of the idea that solar panels can fix the problem:

“Wherever one turns these days, there is talk that the sun’s energy is free, and that African countries could rely solely on it for all of their electric power needs. In theory, every natural resource is free, until it comes time to harness it.”

Remember, you can’t use solar power at night (when electricity is needed most), so you have to find a way of storing it during the day. Commercially viable storage technology doesn’t yet exist even in Western countries, so it’s clearly not the solution for Ghana.

Instead, Asare says that Ghana needs a sensible mix of fuels.

“Any properly designed electricity grid should have a well-diversified mix of fuels for power generation.”

For Asare, that means getting on and building new power plants, using the low-cost conventional fuels which can operate round the clock. He says that a “single 1,000-megawatt plant would dramatically improve the country’s economic prospects”.

And here’s why it matters.

“For many of the poor and most vulnerable citizens in Ghana, [the] chronic power shortage is not merely an inconvenience; it is something that threatens their very existence. We should worry about their plight, and adopt the quickest and most cost-effective ways to bring about an improvement in the situation, and thereby relieve some of their misery.”

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Ghana’s new president: dumsor must stay in the past

Ghana’s new president: dumsor must stay in the past

By | Ghana | No Comments

Ghana’s new president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has told his nominee for energy minister that power shortages have to become ‘a thing permanently of the past.’

Despite having some of the highest rates of electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana has become notorious for its rolling blackouts – known locally as dumsor – which can see entire neighbourhoods switched off without warning.

At the peak of the most recent dumsor crisis in 2015, the country experienced 159 days of blackouts, leading to massive job losses and missed economic targets.  

Boakye Agyarko, who will head up Ghana’s Energy Ministry once confirmed by Parliament, has now been tasked with ending the problem for good.

But with the country’s energy supply plagued by both gas shortages and a shortfall in hydropower, experts are predicting that dumsor may rear its head again in 2017.  

For Mr Agyarko, the challenge will be to diversify Ghana’s energy mix so the country can grow, create jobs and provide a more secure and prosperous future for Ghanaian citizens. 

Join the campaign

Access to electricity is a human right, and the only way for poorer countries to develop. Add your name if you agree.