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.”

4 reasons why the World Bank is wrong about off-grid solar

4 reasons why the World Bank is wrong about off-grid solar

By | Developing Countries, India, Kenya | 4 Comments

Off-grid home solar systems are often held up as the answer to energy poverty in rural Africa. Small-scale solar systems, like a rooftop solar panel connected to a battery, are relatively cheap to install and can supply power for basic amenities like lighting, radio and charging a mobile phone.

The World Bank admitted in a 2017 blog that “the major downside of off-grid solar is that the relatively low amount of supplied electricity limits what those systems can do for the productive use of electricity.”

“However,” they continue, “electricity usage patterns in newly electrified areas in rural Africa are often such that solar is able to meet those demands.”

In other words, the poorest don’t need much electricity, so we only have to give them the bare minimum.

Here are 4 reasons why this muddled thinking is completely wrong.

1. Massive amounts of energy are needed to transform Africa’s rural economies

Africa currently spends $35 billion a year IMPORTING food from richer countries. This is because African farms lack the powered equipment and infrastructure to compete with the rest of the world.

As Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank put it in a recent speech:

“Africa cannot develop in the dark. Farmers cannot store food, irrigation systems cannot function and food agribusiness and industries cannot operate for lack of power.”

Without a revolution in African agriculture – which in turn requires large energy inputs – Africa’s rural poor will stay poor.

2. The benefits of “leapfrogging” have been wildly overstated

Leapfrogging is the argument that poor countries can use technology to bypass certain stages of development. For example, using drones to fly medicine “leapfrogs” the need to build decent roads, while mobile phones “leapfrog” the need for a fixed telecoms infrastructure.

The same argument is made about energy, where off-grid solar supposedly bypasses the need for power stations and pylons.

But as recent paper by Harvard Kenny School’s Calestous Juma argues, “leapfrogging industrial development is not an option”.

Juma’s point is that while it may benefit individuals to have access to mobile phones, to create a tech industry there is no getting away from the need for fiber optic broadband and mobile phone masts. It’s the same with energy. The ability to charge a phone using off-grid solar is better than nothing, but you can’t use off-grid solar to power a mobile phone factory.

Not only that, large complex infrastructure projects like power stations give Africans the engineering skills they need to create future prosperity. Kenya’s geothermal industry, for example, has spurred a whole generation of expert Kenyan engineers.

3. Solar panels are cheap to install, but hard to maintain

Solar equipment requires regular maintenance to work properly. India’s experience is instructive. A massive government-sponsored drive to electrify rural villages in Maharashtra ended in failure when villagers found they couldn’t fix the solar panels when they broke down.

“Most of the equipment is either stolen or not working,” said the project manager. “Now we have decided that a majority of these villages will be electrified in the conventional way.”

4. Given a choice, most people would prefer the grid

Something often overlooked in this debate, are the preferences of Africans themselves.

Yet polling evidence from Ghana and Tanzania shows that when people who aren’t on the grid but do have other forms of electricity are asked if they’d like a grid connection, a clear majority say yes.

It’s completely unacceptable that we live in a world where the average American fridge consumes 9 times more power than the average Ethiopian. But by pushing off-grid solar as an alternative to grid electrification that’s how things are likely to stay.

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.”

Kenya’s geothermal success story holds important lessons for other parts of Africa

By | Kenya | No Comments

Kenya has made heroic progress on electricity access in recent years. From 2013 to 2016 the proportion of Kenyan households with an electricity connection jumped from just 27 percent to 55 percent. The Government has ambitious plans to deliver 95 percent access by 2020.

A key factor in this success is that Kenya’s state power corporation has invested heavily in “last mile” grid connections: prioritising communities that live relatively close to existing power infrastructure so they can get connected as quickly as possible.

Another factor is that Kenya has been exploiting its rich resources of geothermal power. Last year it opened the world’s largest geothermal power station at Olkaria, which now supplies a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

Using funds from the African Development Bank and international donors, another geothermal project currently in construction will supply power to 500,000 households and 300,000 small businesses.

Geothermal energy works by harnessing the heat from the planet’s core. At certain points in the earth’s crust, this heat comes close to the earth’s surface and can be used to create steam and drive a turbine, generating electricity.

Geothermal is considered virtually renewable, producing only a tiny amount of carbon dioxide. A key advantage of geothermal compared to other renewables is that it can provide “baseload power”. This means the energy is there to be used whenever it’s needed and is not dependent on sunlight or weather conditions.

The main disadvantage is that geothermal power it is limited to countries with the right geological activity.

It’s estimated that Africa as a whole has around 14 gigawatts of geothermal energy that could be potentially exploited. (For comparison, a 1 gigawatt power plant can provide enough electricity for around 1 million UK homes.) The countries with significant geothermal potential are all in East Africa and include Ethiopia, Uganda and Mozambique.

Kofi Annan recently said that Africa needs a “tenfold increase” in power production, if it is to have any hope of delivering universal electricity access by 2030. For countries that have it, geothermal has a key role to play in providing that power.

Kenya blackout highlights the need to fix the region’s power supply

Kenya blackout highlights the need to fix the region’s power supply

By | Kenya | One Comment

Large parts of Kenya, including the capital Nairobi, were plunged into a blackout yesterday, after a problem at a substation in Kenya’s Central Province.

Power cuts have become common in many parts of Kenya, a country where 35 percent of young people are unemployed and 40 percent of the population live on less than $2 a day.

A chronic problem in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana have all seen economic growth held back by blackouts in recent years.

Kenya’s blackout comes in the wake of comments by Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Dr Amina Mohamed, who said last week that Africa can no longer rely on income from natural resources and instead ‘needs to strengthen its economic base through further industrialisation.’

Dr Mohamed pointed out that sub-Saharan Africa still sells only 2% of the world’s manufactured goods and with the right investment, has the potential to do much more.

Yet until countries like Kenya have a more reliable power supply, opportunities for industrial growth will remain limited.

With 600 million Africans still trapped in dire energy poverty, growing and modernising the region’s electricity infrastructure has to be the region’s top development priority.

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

Olympic hero wins gold standard energy for her village

Olympic hero wins gold standard energy for her village

By | Kenya | No Comments

When it comes to those who need it most, electricity can mean the world.

It can keep the lights on for kids to do their homework. It can keep the heating on in maternity wards. It can save millions by keeping life-saving vaccines chilled.

But for one proud father, it means seeing his daughter compete for her country on the world stage.

In 2016, due to a lack of electricity supply in his village, the father of Kenyan athlete Faith Chepng’etich was unable to watch his daughter bring home gold for her country.

The village has not been electrified a day since it was formed in the early 1980s, but when Faith returned home, and a request was made to Kenya Power, a team was dispatched in a day.

On August 26th, the official ‘switching on’ ceremony took place, and a town that was plagued with darkness whenever the sun went down for nearly 40 years, was finally connected to the grid.

Faith’s neighbor Mr. Benard Lang’at told the Daily Nation: ‘We thank Faith for delivering us from the powers of darkness… because today our village has been connected to power because of her sterling performance in the Olympic Games.’

But her father is the one who is truly thankful for her life changing efforts.

I only thank God for giving me such a wonderful daughter who has transformed our village and I pray to God to give her strength and good health so that she can win more medals for Kenya.’

Nakuru County receives most of its power from one of the country’s many hydropower plants, meaning the village will be provided with reliable power and Faith’s father will be able to watch her compete for years to come.


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.

Kenya keen to grow investments in energy sector with charter treaty

Kenya keen to grow investments in energy sector with charter treaty

By | Kenya | No Comments

Via Footprint 2 Africa

The Government of Kenya will later this year sign the Energy Charter Treaty after observing the Energy Charter Conference in Japan, this is aimed at attracting as well as protecting investments in the sector.

Kenya’s disposition to the Treaty was confirmed at the sidelines of the sixth Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi after deliberations between Ambassador Urban Rusnak, Secretary General, Energy Charter Conference and Kenya’s Attorney General Professor Githu Muigai.

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