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U.S.-Africa energy ministerial meeting convened in Ethiopian capital

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-Africa Energy Ministerial Meeting opened on Tuesday under the theme, “Catalyzing Sustainable Energy Growth in Africa,” at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day meeting, Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopian Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, noted that lack of access to modern energy is a significant constraint to social and economic development in many parts of the African continent.

“Today one of the key challenges of achieving sustainable development is the issue of the provision of sustainable, reliable and affordable modern energy,” underlined Alemayehu.

He stated that the ministerial meeting is organized to facilitate and increase energy business linkages between the U.S. and African countries.

According to the minister, the two sides are expected to find growing win-win opportunities in the realization of their common aspiration for rapid energy development.

“This gathering will also provide an important occasion to understand the Africa energy situation and identify concrete mechanism for U.S private sector participation to expand renewable energy solutions and energy efficient technologies and harnessing natural gas resources,” noted the minister.

“The meeting will also highlight the progress on President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative and showcase African and the U.S. private sector energy solution through a U.S.-African expo center, “ he said.

Stating that development of energy resources and infrastructure is the prominent agenda across the continent, the minister underscored the need to strengthen efforts to overcome energy poverty on the African continent.

Recalling President Obama’s “Power Africa” initiative during his trip to Africa, an effort to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ernest Moniz, U.S. Secretary of Energy, announced a new U.S. Government Power Africa sub-initiative called “Beyond the Grid.”

“Beyond the Grid will unlock investment and growth for off-grid and small-scale energy solutions for millions of households, businesses and public facilities in underserved communities in Africa,” said the Secretary.

Moniz said that the U.S. Power Africa program already supports over 25 small-scale energy projects.

“But, Beyond the Grid will expand this significantly- facilitating over 1 billion U.S. dollars in new private sectors investments,” he said, adding “This could blend donor and private capital, aggregating and de-risking small projects.”

These private sector commitments will help Power Africa meet and exceed its commitment to provide access to 20 million new connections for households and commercial entities, providing electricity to millions of households in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the press statement from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Over an initial five-year period, Beyond the Grid will leverage partnerships with 27 investors and practitioners committing to invest the one billion dollars into grid-off and small scale solutions for the underserved market, it said.

Close to 600 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the access to modern-day electricity.

“This meeting is particularly important for Africa as it remains the continent with the least developed energy system, and modern energy access in the world. And the low modern energy access to productive applications is also threatening industrial development on the continent,” said Elham Ibrahim, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy.

“We are gathered here for this important meeting to share ideas and experiences as well as strengthen our strategies and commitment in addressing the pressing challenges in the African energy sector,” she said.

Officially opening the meeting, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, underscored on the need to take innovative policy and investment measures in the energy sector to address the adverse effect of climate change that the energy sector is responsible for the highest level of annual emissions globally.

“The climate is changing with adverse effects for humans and life in general that energy sector is responsible for the highest level of annual emissions globally,” said the prime minister.

“Exploiting renewable resources and promoting and supporting renewable and efficient technologies and measures are required to be taken by all nations to meet a challenge of climate change,” he said. 


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