The Coordinator's Corner: Updates from the Field

Power Africa recently entered its third year, and the momentum is strong. Not a day goes by that we don’t think about reaching our goals: 30,000 megawatts and 60 million new electricity connections. We think about the households, businesses, clinics, farms and schools all over sub-Saharan Africa that need reliable access to electricity. We are connecting communities to the electricity grid where we can, and we’re providing access to those who live and work beyond the grid.

By Andrew M. Herscowitz

Dear Partners,

To keep all of our partners engaged and up-to-speed on Power Africa’s latest developments, we are issuing this new monthly update to give you a more in-depth look at the deals, partnerships, and lives we’re impacting. Please send us your updates, as we’d love to share them with our growing Power Africa community. At this very moment, we have our fingers on the pulse of over 100 power projects that can bring thousands of megawatts of cleaner, more reliable electricity to the people and economies of Africa. Here’s what’s happened in the last couple of months:

President Obama Brings Public, Private Sectors Together to Increase Access to Off-Grid Clean Energy

On October 22, in conjunction with the State Department’s Secretary’s Climate and Energy Investment Forum, the White House hosted an event for public and private sector stakeholders focused on catalyzing markets for off-grid energy solutions (see event photos here). As part of the event, the Obama Administration announced a number of new actions and funding to help bring off-grid clean energy to places like sub-Saharan Africa. The new support includes loan guarantees via USAID’s Development Credit Authority channeled through Power Africa. These commitments will not only help bring vital electricity connections to homes and businesses, but also help to reduce the drivers of climate change.


At the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association’s meeting in Dubai, we spent time with innovators who are not just changing the lives of people living off-grid, but this relatively small group of people will literally change the planet. They are not just developing solar lanterns and pay-as-you-go solar rooftop systems, but they have integrated highly efficient fans, televisions, radios, irons, refrigerators, electric razors, and hair straighteners into their product lines. And new highly efficient products are under development every day – some products that can make sense in any home one day regardless of whether the home is connected to the grid. These highly innovative and commercially viable products will reduce everyone’s carbon footprint, with little, if any sacrifice to functionality.  Forget about the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, this place is the place to be.

Power Africa’s Public Sector Partners Join Us for Planning Meetings

In mid-October, Power Africa convened our “Budget Working Group” (BWG) in Pretoria. This annual meeting helped us strategize and prioritize Power Africa projects across sub-Saharan Africa over the next 6 to 18 months. Our teams from around the continent and Washington, DC, as well as representatives from the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Union, and the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom heard from our teams on the ground implementing Power Africa activities in-country. It was a productive meeting, and we thank all who participated, especially our many donor partners.

Sweden’s Strong Commitment to Power Africa

The Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, South Africa hosted a reception for Power Africa and its partners on October 13, in recognition of the Swedish International Development Agency's (Sida) commitment of $1 billion toward sustainable energy investment within Power Africa. Swedish Ambassador Anders Hagelberg and U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard each praised the partnership, and looked forward to even closer cooperation. To see photos from the reception, click here.

Power Africa Roadmap

Our teams have been working hard to develop a Power Africa Roadmap -- in collaboration with many of you -- to chart the course towards achieving 30,000 MW and 60 million connections. We look forward to working with you as we create a strong, strategic, and inclusive plan that will help meet Power Africa’s goals. Our goals is to unveil the Roadmap in early 2016.

Getting Excited about Power Africa: Summit, January 27-29 in Washington, DC.

Please mark your calendars for the Powering Africa: Summit in Washington, DC, sandwiched right between the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos (Jan 20-23) and the African Union Summit (end of January). We hope to see you all there! And we expect to have some big announcements.

OPIC Invests $400 Million in Solar Thermal Plant in South Africa

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. government’s development bank, will invest up to $400 million in a solar thermal plant in South Africa. The Redstone solar project is being developed by Santa Monica, California-based SolarReserve and ACWA Power, a Saudi Arabian electricity producer. It will be located in South Africa’s Northern Cape province.

Google Invests in Lake Turkana Wind Farm

Google announced in October that it will join OPIC and other partners to invest in the Lake Turkana Wind Farm in Kenya, Africa’s largest wind-power project. Previously, Power Africa helped the Kenyan government determine the national electric grid’s absorption capacity for wind power, and through the U.S. Treasury Department, supported the AfDB’s “Partial Risk Guarantee” to the lenders for the associated transmission line.

$375 Million Investment to Boost Benin

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Benin signed a $375 million power-sector-focused compact in August, designed to strengthen the country’s national utility, attract private-sector investment, and fund infrastructure investments in electric generation and distribution. It also includes MCC's largest power generation project, its largest investment in solar power, and its largest off-grid electrification project, as well as a strong emphasis on policy reform.

Kenyan Geothermal Project Gains Steam

The 140 MW Akiira Geothermal Power Project made gains in August as Akiira and Kenya Power signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) on August 12. The Power Africa team in Kenya applied lessons learned from the Lake Turkana Wind Power project to smooth the way towards eventual financial close.

Africa’s Largest Solar Carport

Power Africa partner and USAID grant recipient Cross Boundary just inaugurated an exciting solar carport project in Nairobi. The Cross Boundary partnership is the first of its kind with Power Africa, whereby Power Africa is looking at how bundling these type of smaller investments together can create a broad portfolio that mitigates risks and attracts financing.

Gas -- and Power -- Now Flowing in Tanzania

Transportation of natural gas from Madimba in Mtwara to the Kinyerezi gas receiving station in Dar es Salaam began in early September after completion of the 542 km natural gas pipeline project. The Government of Tanzania expects that the project will help the country achieve a reliable electricity supply, which will help expand industrial production, create jobs, and contribute to a cleaner environment. Already, the arrival of natural gas in Dar es Salaam enabled two previously idle power plants (Symbion and Ubungo II) to switch on in mid-September, adding 180MW of power into the national grid. Power Africa, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), facilitated workshops and provided technical assistance to several government and external stakeholders in an effort to get the gas and power flowing.

Hydro Power in Tanzania

Power Africa’s Transaction Advisor in Tanzania is working with the government, TANESCO (the Tanzanian utility) and EA Power to iron out details that will help the 10 MW Kiwira Small Hydro Project reach financial close. Power Africa had previously provided a portable loan guarantee to help the developer secure financing for the project, which will be connected to the national grid.

Powering Underserved Communities in Uganda

OPIC agreed to terms on a loan of $13.4 million to Butama Hydro-Electricity Company Limited. The loan will be used to construct, operate, and maintain a mini-hydroelectric power generation project that will add 5.5 megawatts to the national grid and help reduce Uganda’s power deficit. This project previously received $1 million in funding from the OPIC-managed U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Financing (ACEF) facility.

Upgrading Electricity Infrastructure in Zambia

The Power Africa team in Zambia and USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) office approved a guarantee facility to support $60 million of a total $122 million loan from Standard Chartered Bank (a Power Africa Partner) to the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO). Proceeds of the loan will go toward upgrading existing electricity infrastructure, as well as expanding selected transmission lines in Lusaka and four key geographic regions of the country. It is estimated that this project will add several thousand new connections.

Renewable Energy for Zambian Farmers

In September, USAID and the Swedish Sida, as part of their commitment to Power Africa, announced an $8 million loan guarantee to promote renewable energy in Zambia. USAID and Sida join Zambia-based Madison Financial Services to support agribusinesses' investment in renewable energy technology to increase capacity and improve output. The 50% loan guarantee -- via USAID’s Development Credit Authority -- includes contributions of 25% from USAID and 25% from Sida.

Liberia Beyond The Grid

Construction of the USAID Mission’s remaining three pilot Beyond the Grid projects with total capacity of 1.2 MW targeting at least 3,000 rural connections is in progress, with one project under construction and two projects under solicitation.

African Renewable Energy Fund (AREF) Reaches $200 Million Funding Goal

The African Renewable Energy Fund (AREF), which Power Africa has supported through its contribution to the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA), achieved its goal of raising $200 million to support small and medium renewable energy projects. AREF is a perfect example of how many partners can come together to work towards a common goal in a focused way.

It is clear that our network of extraordinary experts is working daily to increase access to electricity. We are rewarded not only by reaching our targets, but by improving lives and energizing economies across the continent. Thank you for everything you are doing to ‘Power Africa,’ and we look forward to hearing your updates!