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

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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.

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.

Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

Kenyan paper slams the West’s fossil fuel hypocrisy

By | Developing Countries, Kenya | No Comments

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?

Kenya signs energy deal with America’s General Electric

Kenya signs energy deal with America’s General Electric

By | Kenya | No Comments

Kenya has signed an agreement with the US engineering giant General Electric to supply its flagship energy project with the latest “ultra-supercritical” clean coal technology.

The proposed 1050MW coal plant at Lamu on the eastern coast would provide Kenya with 30 percent of its power. It is regarded by the government as central to its plans to achieve middle-income country status by the 2030s.

Ultra-supercritical technology is cleaner than traditional coal systems as it operates at much higher rates of efficiency, meaning less coal burnt and fewer emissions.

Kenya has been pursuing a highly pragmatic “all of the above” approach to power generation, including solar, geothermal, hydro and fossil fuels. This has made it one of Africa’s success stories on energy access, boosting the number of people with an electricity connection from just 27 percent in 2013 to 55 percent in 2016. The Lamu coal plant is intended to help Kenya achieve its ambitious goal of 95 percent access by 2020.

The project has the backing of the African Development Bank, which unlike Western development agencies like the World Bank, has argued that African countries should use all the resources at their disposal to bring desperately needed power to their people.

It will also be welcome news in the White House, which is keen to encourage the export of US energy technology to developing nations as part of its strategy of “energy dominance.”

Speaking at Kenya’s Ministry of Energy this week, Francis Njogbu, Managing Director of the project said:

“This is truly a historic moment for Kenya and the East African region as a whole. We are confident that this partnership forged today will go a long way to position Kenya as an Industrial hub in the continent. Kenya has been looking for ways to enhance its generation mix to provide the most efficient, least-cost and reliable power in a sustainable manner; and the technology offered by GE gives us a unique opportunity to achieve this ambition.”

Kenyans back new coal plant, despite Western objections

Kenyans back new coal plant, despite Western objections

By | Developing Countries, Kenya | No Comments

“I see no reason for them to do it,” says Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Program, based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “They should invest heavily in hydro, solar, wind. They are already, but they could do even more.”

Mr Solheim is referring to Kenya’s first ever coal plant, which is currently under construction on the island of Lamu. The plant will provide what Kenya – a country where 44 million people live below the poverty line – most most to attract investment: electricity to power a big road and rail project aimed at connecting its landlocked neighbours to a new port. To mitigate the environmental impact, the Lamu plant will employ the latest Chinese “supercritical” technology, which produces less CO2 per unit of energy.

Unlike Western UN environmentalists, many of the locals are convinced that the plant is needed. “If it comes with a job I’m ready to take it,” says 18-year-old Shebwana Mohammed. The Kenyan government agrees. “Given that Kenya requires over 30 gigawatts to be an industrialised nation, we require all kinds of sources of power”, according to Energy Minister Charles Keter.

Despite this, the EU has urged Kenya to drop its plans for the new plant, a flagrantly hypocritical position given that the EU’s largest economy Germany relies on coal for 40 percent of its power. And as Africa’s biggest investor in geothermal energy, Kenya can hardly be accused of eschewing green power.

The East African nation is likely to find a more sympathetic audience in the US, which is in the process of a launching an international Clean Coal Alliance to promote high efficiency coal technology. At a press conference this week, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said it was “immoral” to seek to prevent African countries from using fossil fuels to bring electricity to poverty-stricken populations.

Sub-Saharan African nations are clearly determined to follow the West’s fossil fuel powered path to industrialisation. Rather than trying to halt that process, the wealthiest nations should be seeking to help them use coal and gas in the cleanest possible way. America’s new pragmatism represents a welcome change of direction.

Why is the coal-dependent EU telling Kenya it can’t use coal to industrialise?

Why is the coal-dependent EU telling Kenya it can’t use coal to industrialise?

By | Kenya | No Comments

The European Union’s Ambassador to Kenya has demanded that the East African country drop plans to build its first coal-fired power plant.

“Coal has fallen out of favour in the modern market, why would Kenya want to go down that route?” said Ambassador Stefano Dejak last week.

Why indeed? Here’s a rough guide to the east African nation’s thinking.

Kenya views the power plant as central to its poverty reduction plans

35 percent of young people in Kenya are unemployed, while 40 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Kenya has ambitious plans to reach industrialising, middle-income country status by 2030. That in turn will require large amounts of low-cost, stable, predictable energy – which cannot be supplied by weather-dependent renewables.

It’s not either/or

But for the Kenyan government, coal versus renewables is a false dichotomy. The scale of energy need is so great that Kenya needs both. “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 last year.

The planned new coal plant on the island of Lamu would add 1 gigawatt of baseload energy to Kenya’s national grid, bolstering the country’s limited hydropower capacity while it develops its rich geothermal resources.

EU countries are still heavily dependent on coal

The EU Ambassador’s claim that coal has “fallen out of favour” with the market simply isn’t borne out by the facts. The International Energy Agency predicts that global demand for coal is set to rise over the next five years, with declines in Europe and China more than offset by demand in India and the rest of East Asia.

More importantly, why should Kenya forgo coal when an incredibly wealthy EU country like Germany isn’t willing to do the same? Despite being a renewables powerhouse, Germany currently derives 40% of its electricity from coal – because it still needs back-up power when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Indeed, Germany is now reported to be quietly watering down its climate targets.

All of this suggests that the EU should be taking a more nuanced, more pragmatic and less hypocritical approach to energy access in the poorest countries on earth.

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.