Last year, United States President Barack Obama announced the Power Africa initiative to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. This was largely due to the fact that 600 million people in this region, 70 percent of the population, lives without electricity. His initiative aims to double the number of people with access to power by unlocking the substantial natural gas and renewable energy potential that Africa’s climate is suited to deliver.

By bringing together governments of African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania to start, the Power Africa will add more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of efficient cost effective and sustainable electricity generation capacity. By the year 2020, it hopes to connect 20 million new households to electricity and provide commercial industry with electrical power solutions.

On March 27, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs held a hearing titled Powering Africa’s Future: Examining the Power Africa Initiative. With testimony from organizations like U.S. Agency for International Development, Export Import Bank of the United States, Symbion Power, General Electric, The ONE Campaign and others, Congress got an update on the Power Africa initiative.

Working with private companies, USAID has already brokered deals between African governments and private industry that will secure 25 percent of the 10,000 MW goal. Private industry has so far stepped up to commit $2 for every $1 spent by the U.S. government, accounting for $14 billion. Power Africa uses its expansive network and technical expertise to bring together investors, governments, and businesses to facilitate learning and build transactional capacity.

A significant project born out of this collaboration is the Corbetti geothermal project in Ethiopia. The Power Africa base has worked with the Ethiopian government and Reykjavik Geothermal, the company developing the project. The project will generate up to 1,000 MW of renewable energy. This project created further interest in geothermal projects in a region capable of producing up to 15,000 MW of clean power.

In Tanzania, Power Africa teamed up with Kiwari to develop a 10 MW hydropower project. Through a project with Cummins, Kenya launched a 10 MW biomass project that uses mesquite wood as feedstock for its generator. Cummins hopes to expand its biomass projects throughout other nations in Africa.

The ONE Campaign used this opportunity to highlight the Electrify Africa Act, which they say will produce 20 gigawatts of new power using no additional appropriations from the U.S. government.

Power Africa is a great initiative that connects the U.S. with African nations. It spurs economic opportunity for U.S. and local African companies and gives millions of Africans reliable, sustainable power. The participating governments in Africa get to develop projects that they can be proud of and that will uplift their people.

– Sunny Bhatt

Sources: U.S. Senate, U.S. Senate, USAID
Photo: Huffington Post