Long-term strategies required to address Africa's energy poverty, says ECA's Carlos Lopes

ECA Press Release 201/2012

Addis Ababa, 16 November (ECA) - UN Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of  of the Economic Commission for Africa, Mr. Carlos Lopes, today called on Africa’s energy ministers to create an enabling environment in which renewable technologies can be utilized on the continent.

In an opening address at the ministerial energy conference, during the All-Africa Energy Week,  Lopes said, “it is time to move from discussing the merits of renewable energies” and develop clear and effective long-term strategies that can attract private investors.
The urgent need to increase Africa’s energy capacity through renewable sources was at the core of the debates by experts and policy makers during the week. Lopes said Africa would need  a projected 250 gigawatts to its generation capacity by 2030; and that the way out of Africa’s energy poverty requires a carefully and strategically devised, “long-term low carbon development path”.

This, he said, would maximize proven economically attractive fossil fuels and significantly increase renewable sources of energy.
Organized jointly by the African Union Commission, ECA and the African Development Bank, Friday’s ministerial conference and the preceding meetings of energy experts and investors was set against the backdrop of increasing concerns that Africa’s economic growth trajectory is seeing a rising, largely, unmet demand for energy.
Yet, as indicated by the Executive Secretary, the potential to generate additional capacity abounds, and countries can replicate the success stories emerging from within Africa: Kenya is actively developing geothermal generation projects,  two of them financed with support from the Clean Development Mechanism; Cape Verde developed its first wind potential; and agricultural waste from Mauritius’ sugar industry is selling excess power to the national grid.

Further, the hydro potential prevalent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Zambia are being structured, said Lopes.
More can be generated from the 900 km-long Rift Valley, which, he said, “has the capacity to generate 1.2 Gigawatts of hydropower and up to 20,000 MW geothermal potential.” Added to this energy mix, is the potential for solar and wind power.
On the policy front, he said countries needed to tap into the diverse instruments found in clean energy and climate finance; as well mechanisms such as feed-in-tariffs, which are important price-based instruments that could act as incentives to attract private investment in capital-intensive renewable energy projects.

“Few countries are tapping into these,” said Lopes, adding that fewer still, “have successfully structured public-private partnerships to facilitate the successful implementation of these projects.”
At a time when many Africans are benefiting from the digital revolution, prior to achieving the electricity revolution, Lopes said, “we have to ask ourselves how we can accelerate our efforts to cater to the energy needs of a population that will double by the year 2050.”

Also present at the ministerial opening session were: Erastus Mwencha, AUC Deputy Chair; Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO and Chair of UN-Energy; Salvador Namburete, Minister of Energy of Mozambique; and Elham Ibrahim, Commissioner, Infrastructure and Energy, AUC.
The All-Africa Energy Week (AAEW) and the Pan African Investment Forum are organized under the auspices of AU Conference of Energy Ministers of Africa (CEMA). Jointly organized by the African Union (AU), African Development Bank (AfDB), and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the forum is a framework to evaluate the progress made in infrastructure development and regional energy services.

It aims to build consensus on emerging issues, and promote high-level coordination of actions and stakeholders in the energy sector. The first forum, which took place in Mozambique, generated the Maputo Declaration, which established the institutional framework for cooperation in energy matters amongst African countries.
Given that 2012 is declared as the International Year of Sustainable Energy Access for All (SE4ALL) by the United Nations Secretary-General and the UN system, the AAEW is an important opportunity to underscore the crucial role of renewable energy in achieving sustainable development in Africa by contributing to the three following goals of the SE4ALL: Ensuring universal access to modem forms of energy for all by 2030, improving significantly energy efficiency, and doubling the global share of renewable energy by 2030.

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© 2012 Economic Commission for Africa