Could Local Fuels Solve Africa’s Energy Poverty Problem?

on October 01, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Daily Life In Cotonou

In a departure from the large-scale infrastructure proposals that dominate international development politics, a thinktank, Fuel Freedom Foundation, funded by tech entrepreneurs Joseph Hollander and Eyal Aronoff proposes smaller scale investments to leverage local fuel availability, although early models rely on numbers from developed economies.

The UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All campaign and President Obama’s Power Africa commitment acknowledge the link between energy access and poverty throughout the developing world. The question is how energy can be sustainably provided to the world’s poorest.

Much of the discussion of energy in Africa focuses on electricity distribution, and less on other fuels. Developing smaller-scale fuel infrastructure allows for the development of local fuel economies, Hollander argues. He suggests that this could provide a competitive option in many places in Africa. Fuels locally available throughout sub-Saharan Africa vary, so it is important to develop infrastructure that allows for the use of local options, whether by harnessing oil and natural gas or biofuel feedstock available in a given region, he said.

The Fuel Freedom Foundation is basing its argument on biofuel prices as reported by institutions like the International Energy Agency, the Energy Future Coalition and biofuels trade group BBI Biofuels Canada. The IEA quotes biofuel prices as ranging from $ 0.25-1.0 / litre of gasoline equivalent, although none of these prices are sourced specifically from Africa, and they  exclude the cost of delivery and are independent from the impact of possible subsidies.

Without additional information it is difficult to assess whether this proposed solution is viable, but it is certainly an option to explore.