US Launches New Initiative to Bring Clean Energy to Africa

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With only one in four households in Africa has access to electricity today, the United States has launched a new initiative and partnership to bring clean energy to Africa.

In her remarks at the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative launch in Brazil, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Africa is lifting off economically, with some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

She notes that in the midst of what is still a very precarious global economy, that clean energy will bring new jobs, create new livelihoods, support education, new businesses, healthier and more productive lives, as well as reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change.

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Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm, at the entrance to the River Mersey in North West England, United Kingdom.

“And we think that is a winning formula.” -Ms. Clinton

Too many people and too many places cannot get reliable access to affordable electricity even as abundant energy sources, clean energy sources, remain unused, Ms. Clinton said.

Africa is blessed with vast geothermal resources in the East, the world’s largest hydropower resources in the heart of the continent, and bright sunlight everywhere, she noted.

However, Ms. Clinton stresses that only one in four households in Africa has access to electricity today.

“That is 600 million men, women, and children living without power that can’t turn on the lights, can’t use a machine in a factory.” -Ms. Clinton

Now why does this gap exist?

She explains that it is not a technological hurdle. She pointed out it is because investors in this space often see obstacles and risks that stop them from investing in clean energy in Africa.

Too few projects even make it past the initial planning stage, she said.

So even though all of the pieces are there, Ms. Clinton stresses that energy sources, technology, know-how, high demand the investments that would bring all of that together have yet to materialize.

“So if we can remove some of the risk and cover some of the costs of preparing a project, we believe we can spur significant new private investments in clean energy.” -Ms. Clinton

She cites that the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative will help clean energy projects in Africa get started.

It is an innovative partnership between three United States Government entities like the State Department, OPIC, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Ms. Clinton cited.

“We want to drive private sector investment into the energy sector.” -Ms. Clinton

The United States plans to use an initial $20 million grant fund to leverage much larger investment flows from OPIC. She adds this will open the door then for hundreds of millions of dollars of OPIC financing, plus hundreds of millions of more dollars from the private sector for projects that otherwise would never get off the drawing board.

This new initiative is part of an across-the-board push by the United States to make clean energy and energy security cornerstones of our foreign policy, Ms. Clinton explained.

At the State Department, Ms. Clinton has committed a new Bureau of Energy Resources.She adds that OPIC has scaled up investments in clean energy from 130 million to 1.1 billion as well.

This effort also reflects the United States commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, which seeks to give all people everywhere access to clean energy, she stressed.

She says achieving this goal will require the investment of tens of billions of dollars a year over the next 20 years to extend our energy infrastructure.

The US government will contribute $2 billion in funds and authorities that Congress made available last year to support clean energy programs and projects in developing countries.

The US government believes this will leverage far more in private investment.

She cites that Bank of America has announced it will invest $50 billion in clean energy over the next decade.

“And we expect other countries and institutions to follow suit.” -Ms. Clinton

She notes that over the next 20 years, electric power infrastructure will be a $10 trillion industry.

“Let’s make it a clean energy infrastructure that will be part of our sustainable energy and sustainable development goals coming from this conference.” -Ms. Clinton

She highlighted that if the world can make this a reality, all countries can further their sustainability goals while also furthering economic opportunities and better lives for tens of millions of men, women, and children.

“We are very excited about this partnership, and we are particularly pleased and looking forward to partnering with our African partners.” -Ms. Clinton

The United States understands that sustainable development

holds the key to shared future to both economic success and our environmental security.

The United States recognizes that governments alone cannot solve all the problems countries face, from climate change to persistent poverty to chronic energy shortages.

In Rio, the United States has announced a wide range of new projects and partnerships. It is joining Brazil to drum up support for urban sustainability programs.

The US is also partnering with the World Bank and others to reduce harmful emissions from solid waste. Currently, the US government is working with companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and the rest of the Consumer Goods Forum to combat deforestation through sustainable supply chains.

More than 40,000 people including heads of State and government, parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, business and civil society leaders attended Rio+20. It seeks to shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

solyndra for africa
Graphic: NewsBlaze

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.