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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.”

Energy poverty stifles sub-Saharan Africa’s economic development

Energy poverty stifles sub-Saharan Africa’s economic development

By | South Africa | No Comments

#PowerAlert’ featured prominently on Eskom’s Twitter feed on February 25, as South Africa’s number one utility reminded the Twitterverse that a planned power cut was scheduled for later that night.

Beginning in March 2014, the country has struggled to keep its lights on at all hours, leaving state-run Eskom with no option but to resort to ‘load shedding’: a process whereby the company must impose a programme of power cuts to preserve frankly inadequate supplies. “We’ll keep you updated with regard to any changes. Please continue to use electricity sparingly”, read the firm’s Twitter feed.

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