Financing Clean Energy Infrastructure in Africa

on September 25, 2014 at 5:00 PM

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The African continent — home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies and populations — holds substantial untapped energy resources. Maintaining economic growth for these countries requires access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy. Yet power generation capacity is often inadequate.

To help address these challenges, the Department of Energy looks for ways to increase the flow of private capital into Africa’s energy sector while reducing the risk to private investors.

This summer, we joined forces with our Ethiopian partners to convene the U.S.-Africa Energy Ministerial in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the Ministerial, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined high level delegations from more than 40 countries, as well as stakeholders from the private sector, to discuss ways to catalyze sustainable energy development in Africa. Panels focused on technologies — including energy efficiency, renewable energy and microgrids — and topics such as governance, natural gas development, and how to involve more women in energy leadership. They also focused on Power Africa, President Obama’s multi-agency initiative to increase access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next five years, the U.S. government will commit more than $7 billion in financial support to the Power Africa effort.

The Ministerial also addressed the need for new efforts to support financing of African clean energy infrastructure. One panel gathered leaders from the World Bank, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation to discuss how the United States could support energy financing on the continent.

Why is this financing so important? The capital required for African nations to develop their energy resources and create energy infrastructure far exceeds the financial capacity of those nations and their foreign donors. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa — where two-thirds of the population lives without access to electricity — would require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. As such, substantial private investment in Africa’s energy sector is needed to fill the gap between the government and donors’ capacity and what is necessary.

While at the Ministerial, Secretary Moniz also announced Beyond the Grid, part of the Power Africa initiative. It aims to increase energy access for underserved populations across sub-Saharan Africa by leveraging partnerships with 27 investors and practitioners who have committed to invest over $1 billion into off-grid and small-scale energy solutions.

Since the Ministerial, we have remained actively engaged in efforts to advance clean energy deployment in Africa. In August, we were proud to host foreign delegations at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. — the largest event that any U.S. president has ever held with African heads of state and government.

We look forward to continuing to work with African nations and the private sector to increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy.