An interesting article published by ‘The Breakthrough’, and organisation with the mission to “accelerate the transition to a future where all the world’s inhabitants can enjoy secure, free, and prosperous lives on an ecologically vibrant planet,” deserves a mention on esiafrica.wpengine.com.

According to the article, lack of electricity in Africa remains one of the biggest barriers to the region’s development and prosperity. About 600 million people living in Africa are considered ‘energy poor’.  Energy poverty, a lack of affordable, reliability electricity affects billions worldwide and is not just related to those who are not grid connected, but to whose grid connections are sporadic and unreliable.

Lack of generation capacity and outdate and insufficient infrastructure means consumption for many in Africa is extremely low.  A comparison by one of the authors highlighted that his fridge uses more electricity than the average Ethiopian citizen.

The average American uses about 13,200 kWh/year.  Yes, as the graph below shows, this is significantly lower than the average african.

About 600 million of those people live in Africa, where only one in three people are connected to power. A few poor countries in other regions have similar electrification rates — like Haiti (28 percent) and Cambodia (34 percent) — yet nowhere is the electricity gap as great as in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Breakthrough believes that energy access, an often used term for determining how much of a population has some form of electricity should “distinguish between people who have enough access to support a ‘modern lifestyle’ from those who do not.”

The authors believe that such a definition, similar to the $1.25/day line used to define global economic poverty, would change the way policy makers look at energy access, and would be useful for creating good energy goals, plans, and policies.

The International Energy Agency defines “modern energy access” — e.g., the amount of energy needed to support a modern lifestyle — as 100kWh/person/year. However, that’s barely enough to power a single 60W light bulb for five hours per day for a year. An American would use that much energy in just three days.

Here’s how long citizens in other countries would take to burn through this much energy:

The Breakthrough believes a more realistic example of improving and defi9ning energy access is that used by The Sustainable Energy for All initiative’s five-tier system.

The organisation believes that the Electrify Africa Act is the way forward to making energy poverty a thing of the past for Africa. 

The Electrify Africa Act (H.R. 2548) is a bill that essentially sets energy poverty in Africa as a priority for US development policies, with a goal to provide new access to 50 million people. It directs USAID, OPIC, USTDA, and US-supported international organizations like the World Bank to increase investment in power projects and energy sector reform, and emphasizes increased reporting and coordination,” says the article.

It continues:  “The bill also re-authorizes and strengthens OPIC, which is critical for the success of public-private partnerships key to both this act and Power Africa. It was passed in the House on May 8, 2014 with broad bipartisan support.

The Energize Africa Act (S. 2508) is the recently-introduced Senate version of the bill. It shares many of the same goals and provisions as the Electrify Africa Act. The bill requires the Administration to set out a very detailed multi-year strategy for Power Africa and offers additional authorities, tools, and resources for OPIC to achieve its objectives.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed this bill on June 24, 2014 by voice vote. If passed in the Senate, it will go on to be reconciled with the House bill before final approval by Congress.

Power Africa, a separate but complementary Presidential Initiative, was announced by President Obama in June 2013. It commits $7 billion in US government support to investment in six participant countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania).”

Read more at:  http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/programs/energy-and-climate/unleashing-africa

Do you agree with this assessment?  Could the Electrify Africa Bill make a significant difference to energy poverty across the continent?   Share your views by emailing the editor:  claire@esiafrica.wpengine.com

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