Sixty-five more years to realize electricity for all in Africa – report

Sixty-five more years to realize electricity for all in Africa – report

By a Global Information Network correspondent

Sub-Saharan Africa will still wait for 65 more years to realize electricity for all, says a new report. The region lags behind in its ability to generate electricity, hampering growth and frustrating its ambitions to catch up with the rest of the world.

All of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generating capacity is less than South Korea’s, and a quarter of it is unproductive at any given moment because of the continent’s aging infrastructure. The World Bank estimates that blackouts alone cut the gross domestic products of sub-Saharan countries by 2.1 percent.

This dismaying picture was echoed in the annual report of the Africa Progress Panel, released in June headed by former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan. The report foresees electricity coming to all homes and businesses in Africa – by 2080.

Graca Machel, a member of the panel and the former wife of Nelson Mandela, said she was taken aback by the prospect of a 65-year wait for electricity. The report also estimated that an investment of USD 55 billion would be needed yearly to achieve universal access.

Presenting the report at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town, titled “Power People Plant: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities,” Annan noted that some African countries are already leading the world in low-carbon climate-resilient development. “African countries do not have to lock into high-carbon old technologies; we can expand our power generation and achieve universal access by leapfrogging into new technologies,” he said.

However, he cautioned that Africa’s energy challenge was substantial. “Over 600 million people still do not have access to modern energy. It is shocking that Sub-Saharan Africa’s electricity consumption is less than that of Spain and on current trends it will take until 2080 to catch up.”

Modern energy also means clean cooking facilities that don’t pollute household air, he went on. “An estimated 600,000 Africans die each year as a result of household air pollution, half of them children under the age of five. On current trends, universal access to nonpolluting cooking will not happen until the middle of the 22nd century.”

Africa has enormous potential for cleaner energy – natural gas and hydro, solar, wind and geothermal power – and should seek ways to move past the damaging energy systems that have brought the world to the brink of catastrophe. The waste of scarce resources in Africa’s energy systems remains stark and disturbing.

Current highly centralised energy systems often benefit the rich and bypass the poor and are underpowered, inefficient and unequal. Energy-sector bottlenecks and power shortages cost the region 2-4 per cent of GDP annually, undermining sustainable economic growth, jobs and investment. They also reinforce poverty, especially for women and people in rural areas.

“It is indefensible that Africa’s poorest people are paying among the world’s highest prices for energy: a woman living in a village in northern Nigeria spends around 60 to 80 times per unit more for her energy than a resident of New York City or London,” he declared.

“Changing this is a huge investment opportunity. Millions of energy-poor, disconnected Africans, who earn less than US 2.50 a day, already constitute a USD 10-billion yearly energy market.”

The panel is an advocacy group which lobbies for sustainable development in Africa and which was originally established to monitor whether the world’s leaders were meeting their commitments to Africa.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

Nairobi can generate energy from its garbage

Nairobi can generate energy from its garbage By Clifford Akumu

Nairobi County is sitting on 200 megawatts of untapped clean energy from garbage that it could plug the unabatedly high energy deficit, according to experts. They say energy from garbage can lead to significant economic transformation as envisaged in vision 2030.

“Clean renewable energy from garbage will meet the basic electricity needs of city households and act as a pedestal to the 24-hour economy of the county,” said Evans Ondieki, from the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

Africa is struggling out of energy poverty with 621million people lacking access to grid energy, and 713 million lacking access to clean energy. Dr. Cosmas Ochieng Obote, director African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) said that cheap clean energy intervention would spearhead adaptation to climate change and sustainable development in the county.

“We have sufficient resources to meet the county’s energy needs, they are just untapped,” said Dr Obote. Like other cities in the world, solid waste management is an expensive venture gobbling up to 30 to 50 percent of revenues.

This is unsustainable according to experts and Kenyan cities and towns end up with endless heaps of garbage that become a health risk. According to a recent survey by UNEP, Nairobi which has a population of 4 million people generates 3,200 tons of waste daily. Only 850 tons reach Dandora dumpsite while the rest remain unaccounted for.

Ondieki challenged county governments to spearhead clean energy uptake stating that Kenya had ‘the best regulations and framework on energy that creates a fertile ground for clean energy access in counties’.

Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero had mooted the idea of tapping energy from the Dandora dump site to generate power. In an earlier report, Kidero indicated that the organic waste will be used in manufacturing fertilizer.

“We are devising ways of producing energy from waste while recycling plastics,” he was quoted saying. The Kenyan government estimates that the 2013 -2017 National Climate Change Action Plan for climate adaptation and mitigation will require a substantial investment of about US$ 12.76 billion.