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World Bank urge Africa to use mini grids to boost electricity access

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The World Bank on Wednesday urged Africa to use mini grids in order to boost electricity access in the continent.

World Bank Country Director for Kenya Diarietou Gaye told an energy conference in Nairobi that the majority of the 1.1 billion people globally who still lack access to electricity live in sub Saharan Africa.

"We believe that mini-grids offer a promising solution to provide electricity to these people. We are committed to taking their development to the next level," Gaye said during the African Knowledge Exchange Forum on Electricity Mini-Grids.

The three day event brought participants from both public and private sectors to review the challenges and solutions for scaling up mini grids in Africa.

Mini Grids are typically off-grid electricity solutions in rural areas where connection to the national grid is too costly due to thinly spread populations.

Gaye said that an overwhelming majority of the sub-Saharan African population is expected to be in rural areas for the foreseeable future.

"Mini grids are an ideal solution in Africa where the opportunity cost of waiting for the grid to reach their villages in the next ten to 20 years is too huge," he added.

The World Bank is currently partnering with a number of African countries to help them increase access to modern energy services.

Through the Scaling up Renewable Energy Scale-up Program, the bank is financing initial efforts to scale up mini-grids in Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Liberia.

The country director said that to date more than 90 million U.S. dollars has been allocated for these mini-grids programs.

Gaye said that mini grids hold great potential for expanding electricity access across the entire region.

"Ensuring access to affordable reliable sustainable and modern energy for all is critical for improving the health and livelihoods of people around the world," she added.

"With adequate reliable lighting children can read and do homework longer and families can generate more income," she observed.

The World Bank official said that many electricity alternatives like kerosene lamps emit a dull light and are a major source of pollution, harming family health as well as the local environment.


Low investment hinders access to energy: report

LUSAKA Zambia (Xinhua) -- The emphasis of investing in large scale energy infrastructure projects has hindered efforts to meet global goals for electrification, a new report released here Wednesday has shown.

The "Decentralized Energy: the Fast-Track to Universal Energy Access" launched on the side-lines of the African Development Bank (AfDB) 2016 annual general meetings in Lusaka, the Zambian capital said the opportunity costs of delaying access to energy could be remedied if multilateral development banks and infrastructure development agencies incorporated into their plans the full spectrum of energy options, including decentralized renewable energy systems.

The report, produced by Power for All, has pointed out that the need to achieve universal energy access could be addressed by emphasising in investing in decentralized renewable energy systems such as solar home systems and mini-grids which offer the best path.

"The out-dated emphasis on large-scale infrastructure initiatives is misguided considering 85 percent of the energy-poor live in rural areas where decentralize renewable energy can deliver on energy access goals, and climate, gender, education, health and rural development goals quicker, more cost-effectively and more reliably than the centralized grid can," the report said.

It added that despite its clear prioritization as a global goal, little progress has been made in achieving universal access to date, noting that despite multilateral development banks' mission of poverty alleviation decentralized renewable energy spend still only accounts for a tiny fraction of their total investment in energy access.

As of 2014, the African Development Bank invested just one percent of its energy access portfolio to decentralized renewable energy, with the remaining 99 per cent going towards large energy infrastructure projects, the report added.

The report has since outlined a new framework for achieving universal access before 2030 which also outline what multilateral development banks could and should take to expedite delivery of electricity to the 1.1 billion people living without access to modern energy services.

The report has identified three specific course of action for multilateral development banks which include utilize energy access opportunity costs assessments in funding solutions, catalysing dedicated energy access super funds to accelerate the decentralized renewable energy sector and mobilizing national decentralized renewable energy accelerators in countries suffering from energy poverty.

"Energy access is central to nearly every major development challenge the world faces today, and with decentralized renewables, it doesn't have to wait," said Power for All's Kristina Skierka, director of the global campaign.

"With a reprioritization of funding, shifting of internal incentives, and adaptation of successful, fast-track funding schemes for decentralized renewables, the multilateral development banks can become the great accelerators of energy access and leaders in achieving power for all," he added.

While the global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for universal energy access is 2030, the AfDB's "New Deal on Energy for Africa" is committed to achieving universal energy access across the continent by 2025.

The AfDB has announced major commitments on energy access, but its focus appears to remain on large infrastructure.


Chinese know-how can help Africa achieve clean, sustainable power

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- An environment expert has said Chinese know-how in renewable energy development could help generate clean and sustainable power in Africa, which is home to almost half the global population lacking access to electricity.

David Rodgers, a senior climate change specialist with the U.S.-based foundation, Global Environment Facility, said China had made wind and solar power technologies, which used to be seen as luxuries, become affordable to the world.

"China's approach of doing things in a big way has made the country become the leader in the world by availing affordable energy to the populations," Rodgers said on Wednesday at the United Nations Environment Assembly in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

China is the world's largest investor in renewables excluding large hydro, with its 102.9 billion U.S. dollars in investment in 2015 representing more than one third of the global total, according to a report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in late March.

The U.S. was a distant second, with 44.1 billion dollars, followed by Japan (36.2 billion dollars) and Britain (22.2 billion dollars), the report shows.

The UNEP says Africa could be one of the most promising markets for renewal energy in the next decade due to its abundant solar, wind, biomass and geothermal resources.

Rodgers said Africa should harness these renewable energy resources to help it address power shortages.

"Africa must develop strong policies to enable them to adopt solar and wind power since the continent still do not have enough supply of energy."

In this regard, he said China's know-how in the renewable energy sector "should be transplanted into Africa."

"China's investment to help make distributed power a reality, coupled with support for proper policies, would be very helpful to help African countries achieve their goals for clean and sustainable power."

Chinese companies have been supporting African countries in developing renewable energy, engaging in solar, hydro, wind and thermal projects.

Clean energy projects are part of ten major plans for China-Africa cooperation outlined by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a China-Africa forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa in early December last year. China will provide 60 billion dollars of funding support for the plans.

People in rural areas in Africa suffer the most from power shortages. Rodgers believes renewable energy could play a role in alleviating the problem.

"It may not be necessary to build out the grid 100 percent when we now have technology, such as distributed power, solar PV, and wind that can be based in rural areas and in villages," he said.

Africa urged to embrace China's efficiency in renewable energy

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- An international environment expert on Wednesday urged Sub-Saharan African countries to learn from China's experience in renewable energy development.

David Rodgers, a Senior Climate Change specialist with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) said Beijing has made renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar that use to be seen as luxuries become affordable to the world.

"China's approach of doing things in a big way has made the country become the leader in the world by availing affordable energy to the populations," Rodgers said during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.

He said after developing a five year renewable energy development plan in 2014, China lifted the investment in renewable energy by 17 percent to 102.9 billion U.S. dollars at a time when the developed countries combined investment was 130 billion dollars.

Rodgers added that the country has been the single biggest reason for the near unbroken uptrend for the developing world as a whole since 2004.

"Africa must develop strong policies to enable them adopt solar and wind power since the continent still do not have enough supply of energy," he added.

According to a report titled global trend in renewal energy investment 2016, developing countries jumped ahead of develop countries for the first time in 2015 in terms of renewable energy investment.

The share of global investment accounted for by developing countries rose from 49 percent in 2014 to 55 percent in 2015, with the dollar commitment at 156 billion dollars the previous year.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said that Africa is one of the most promising markets for renewable energy over the next 10-20 years due to its abundant sunshine, wind, biomass and geothermal opportunities.

Within the East African region, Kenya attracted 316 million dollars of asset finance in 2015.

The only other countries that have also made tremendous progress are Uganda with 134 million dollars and Ethiopia with 100 million dollars.



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