African govts urged to invest more in energy sector to enhance access
African states and stakeholders have been urged to invest more in the power sector and close the continent’s energy deficit.
Africa Progress Panel chairman and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the African Development Bank (AfDB) chief, Akinwumi Adesina, made the call during the launch of the “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa,” report over the weekend.
The report is a follow up to the 2015 Africa Progress report, “Power, People, and Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities”. The report encourages countries to adopt both on-grid and off-grid power solutions to light up and power Africa.
According to Adesina, electricity deficit in Africa is still a major challenge with over 645 million people without access to power, which calls for strong public and private sector partnerships to address the problem.
The continent has abundant potential for solar, hydropower, wind and geothermal power generation, plus significant amounts of natural gas and coal deposits that have not yet been exploited.
The AfDB chief said governments must prioritise energy sector to boost investments and help industrialise the continent.
The AfDB recently committed to invest more than $12 billion in the energy sector in the next five years and expects the private sector to invest about $50 billion into the sector going forward.
“The goal is to connect 130 million households onto the grid and 75 million people via off-grid energy sources, all of which could provide millions of households with access to clean cooking energy,” Adesina noted during the event.
He commended the Africa Progress Panel for the ‘insightful’ report, which he said will help Africa devise ways on how to achieve the off-grid electricity revolution as part of the comprehensive New Deal on Energy for Africa.
More than 620 million Africans without access to electricity cannot wait for grid expansion. However, grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission; they are slow and expensive, according to the report.
“Therefore, governments must increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.”
Kofi Annan said: “What we are advocating is for African governments to exploit every available option in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible so that everyone is included and no one is left behind.”
Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 per cent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.
It urges governments to put in place the incentives needed to encourage greater investment in off-grid and mini-grid systems, protect consumers and facilitate demand among disadvantaged groups.
According to Annan, governments need to foster an environment in which companies can enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, climb the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.
Rwanda’s energy targets
Rwanda targets to increase its power generation capacity to 563MW by 2018.
The country currently has an installed power generation capacity of 208MW. The plan is to improve generation and access to electricity, especially in the rural areas through a mixed approach of hydropower and off-grid renewable energy sources. In fact, over the last seven years, more efforts in the energy sector have been directed towards diversified and balanced power production and supply to meet the national targets.
Electricity generation capacity has increased almost three-fold from 76MW in 2010 to 208MW in January 2017, driven by a growth in grid connections under the Electricity Access Rollout Programme (EARP).
Accordingly, the national power access rates increased from 10.8 per cent in 2010 to the current 28 per cent on grid, and 3 per cent off-grid.