December 5, 2022
How Might Clean Energy Feature at the White House Africa Summit?
By Todd Moss
Next week is make-or-break for the United States to show an actual alternative to Chinese-backed infrastructure. President Biden will host 49 African leaders December 13-15 in an orchestrated effort to show that the United States is no longer disengaged with the continent and to rebuild trust with a region where one in four people will live by mid-century. Although multiple crises hang over the summit, accelerating Africa’s energy transition will be high on the agenda. I don’t expect major announcements of any big new energy or climate programs, but here are three things I’ll be watching:
- Will the US signal an interest in building energy partnerships beyond South Africa? The US has committed $1 billion, mainly in future loans from the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC), to South Africa to help that country accelerate coal plant retirement and shift to renewable energy. The overall package negotiated with South Africa and the Europeans – known as a Just Energy Transition Partnership of JETP – is supposed to be a model for supporting other countries to build clean power systems for the future. But, so far, it’s only benefitting one African country, while Indonesia and Vietnam are reportedly next. What about the other 48 countries with even greater energy needs? If the US is really only interested in closing coal plants, there’s very little on offer for other African countries.
- Where are the renewable energy projects? All energy projects are facing major headwinds right now, including high interest rates, supply chain disruptions, and knock-on effects of rising debt risk. But under Biden, the DFC, America’s principal tool for investing in infrastructure, has supported just one utility-scale renewable energy project on the entire continent: a 20 MW solar + storage facility in Malawi. While there may be few shovel-ready projects right now, the summit could be a moment to kick-start early-stage project support. A passive approach, waiting for bankable projects to walk in the DFC’s front door, is not good enough.
- How is the US putting its newly-clarified technology flexibility into practice? The Biden Africa strategy deliberately includes support for “gas-to-power infrastructure,” but there aren’t any gas projects either. The only power plant approved over the past two years has been one small thermal facility in Sierra Leone. With a resurgence in gas projects serving Europe, including those using exported African gas, the continent cannot just be a source for fuelling economic growth of other, richer regions. As with renewables, some US nod to building genuine energy security partnerships could go a long way.
What’s happening with USG support for African power plants? These 5 charts explain.
By Katie Auth, Jacob Kincer, Todd Moss
BLUF: USG support for African power generation has slowed in recent years, roughly mirroring broader market trends. The number of gas or diesel projects beginning construction has remained relatively small but stable over the past decade – while renewable projects dramatically increased, before falling in the last few years.
Rose Mutiso on Good Clean Energy podcast: How to End Energy Poverty
By Rose Mutiso
Rose Mutiso joins the show to discuss the connection between access to affordable electricity and poverty and details a path forward for energy-poor countries in Africa.
Clean water from clean energy
By Mohamed Alhaj
How renewable energy can be a game-changer for Africa's desalination industry By 2050, it is expected that there will be at least 800 million Africans living in regions with acute water scarcity (where the renewable water resources capacity is less than 1000 m3/capita/year).1 A recent study on the potential growth of the desalination market in developing countries estimated the demand for desalination in Africa’s most water-scarce countries to reach 37 Mm3/day by 2050, satisfying total municipal water demand for urban populations; which is an increase of more than 1500% compared to the current installed capacity in these countries.1 FIGURE 1: Projected desalination capacity in sub-Saharan Africa’s most water-scarce countries by 2050 According to the FAO, the agricultural sector has the highest water demands in these regions, which makes desalination a key enabler for food security. African governments are already taking serious steps to develop more desalination plants.
Desalination: A future energy demand driver
By Mohamed Alhaj
Globally, nearly 2 billion people – about half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – lack access to safe drinking water.
Hub vs Hub: The debate over development finance for natural gas is messy. Here are two pragmatic solutions.
By Katie Auth, Rose Mutiso, Todd Moss, Vijaya Ramachandran
The fight over when – or even whether – to use development finance for gas-fired power plants in poor countries has become overly contentious and counterproductive.