The Coordinator's Corner: Notes from the Field

First, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to new USAID Administrator Gayle Smith, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 30. Administrator Smith is one of the architects of and strongest supporters of Power Africa, and we look forward to her continued leadership as we work to meet our goals.

By Andrew M. Herscowitz

Dear Partners,

What an exciting time to be working on clean energy in Africa! More and more reports continue coming out that confirm that the entire continent eventually could power its economic development with renewable energy alone. According to the new Climatescope report, sub-Saharan countries have attracted over $25 billion for renewable energy projects to date, doubling their renewable energy capacity in 2014 to over 4 gigawatts. Leaders across Africa are calling for more investment in clean energy, and Power Africa is working with them to make it happen.

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) starting now, we can feel good about the investments in renewable technologies Power Africa has facilitated throughout the continent. But we also know there’s more work to be done to achieve Africa’s transition toward thriving, low-carbon economies.

In the past few weeks, Power Africa and our partners made great progress towards these goals. Here’s a brief snapshot:

OPIC Surpasses Power Africa Financing Milestones

Early in the month, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s Development Finance Institution, announced that it had exceeded its initial $1.5 billion financing and insurance pledge in support of Power Africa. OPIC reached its milestone in September, and now supports a diverse portfolio of private sector-led development that will create almost 1,500 new megawatts (MWs) of on-grid and off-grid power across Sub-Saharan Africa. Now, with over $1.6 billion in commitments, OPIC has positively changed the investment landscape in the African power sector.

OPIC and IFC Provide Financing for Senegal Power Plant

OPIC and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a Power Africa partner and member of the World Bank Group, signed financing agreements for the 53 megawatt Cap des Biches power plant in Senegal with project developer ContourGlobal, the Government of Senegal, and Senegal’s national electricity utility. The new and highly efficient plant will help Senegal meet a steadily increasing demand for electricity, while contributing to the country’s economic growth. This transaction represents OPIC’s first in Senegal’s power sector.

MCC Compact Approved for Liberia

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Liberia signed a $257 million power and roads sector compact that includes funding for the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee Hydroelectric Plant, development of a training center for technicians in the electricity sector, support for the creation of an independent energy sector regulator and support for the development of a nationwide road maintenance framework. The compact will significantly enhance Liberia’s engagement in the U.S. Government’s Power Africa effort. Presently, only 2 percent of the population has access to the electric grid, and 84 percent of Liberians currently live on less than $1.25/day.

U.S. and Sierra Leone Sign First-Ever $44 Million MCC Agreement

The $44.4 million grant – known as an MCC Threshold Program – will support policy reforms, build institutional capacity, and improve governance in the water and electricity sectors, with a focus on Freetown. The program aims to create a foundation for the delivery of financially sustainable water and electricity services while limiting opportunities for corruption by establishing independent regulation, strengthening key institutions and increasing transparency and accountability. It also represents MCC’s latest contribution to Power Africa, following recent investments in Liberia and Benin.

MCC Compact Transforming Malawi’s Electricity Landscape

The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Malawi, with funding from MCC, signed six contracts with five firms for: (i) the construction of power lines and substations; (ii) the provision of transmission network monitoring equipment; and (iii) the rehabilitation, modernization and upgrading of Nkula A Hydro Power Plant. With the signing of these six contracts, MCA Malawi has committed a total of $157.1 million of the $350.7 million Compact budget. These six contracts will transform Malawi's electricity supply landscape and increase the delivery of reliable electricity to an ever-growing number of Malawian businesses and homes, and are a clear sign that the Compact Agreement between the U.S. and Malawian Governments is bearing fruit.

New Off-Grid Challenge Grants Awarded

The latest round of grants from the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge are being awarded in November and December. The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is awarding grants to nine emerging renewable energy companies in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. In addition, the agency will award two additional grants to renewable energy companies in Liberia. With these grants, the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge will have awarded $5.0 million through 50 individual grants, to projects expected to yield one million new connections for homes and businesses across Africa.

UN Recognizes Power Africa Partners as Climate Game-Changers

Two Power Africa partners, Azuri Technologies and Mobisol Prepaid Energy, were among 16 winners of the prestigious United Nations’ Momentum for Change climate change award.  Azuri’s PayGo system uses mobile phone technology and solar power to bring clean energy to people across sub-Saharan Africa. Mobisol’s Smart Solar Homes help low-income residents in Rwanda and Tanzania pay access solar power via a monthly installment plan. Congrats to both companies, and all 16 winners, for truly game-changing and inspiring work.

IFC Launches Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program in Tanzania

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a Power Africa partner, recently launched the Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program-supported mini-grid program in Dar es Salaam. The broader SREP program in Tanzania seeks to catalyze the deployment of renewable energy and diversify the energy sector. A specific project focused on mini-grids being implemented by IFC aims to increase access to modern off-grid energy services in rural Tanzania. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will begin to collaborate actively with the SREP program as it will work closely with the Renewable Energy Agency, where Power Africa has a Transaction Advisor.

Climatescope 2015

In advance of COP 21, the latest Climatescope report on global clean energy investment was released. Climatescope is a collaboration between the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID), the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank Group (IDB), Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Power Africa. The report shows that the Climatescope Africa countries as a whole nearly doubled their clean energy capacity, from 2.1 GW to 4.1 GW, but that many countries still need to embrace renewables more fully. The delays are jeopardizing private investment in energy sources that are in many cases cheaper than the existing fossil fuel sources. Read more and use the interactive tools at http://global-climatescope.org/en/.

Senegal Solar Project Advances with Help from Power Africa

Power Africa’s Regional Transaction Advisor in Dakar drafted financing documents to help secure a letter of intent from a lender to finance Synergy 1, a 29 MW solar project. Power Africa is also supporting the Senegal National Electricity Company (Senelec) in the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) negotiations, where there is a blockage related to the capacity of the project that changed over the development phase (from 20 MW to 29 MW).

Finally, some important upcoming events and announcements:

The Global African Investment Summit

Unlocking investment and growth for renewables, including off-grid and small-scale energy solutions, will be my focus for the next few days as I attend The Global African Investment Summit in London along with other partners. There’s wonderful momentum leading up to this important conference, and we’re looking forward to a great panel discussion on Day 2 with Kandeh Yumkella formerly of SE4All, the European Union’s Roberto Ridolfi, and the United Kingdom’s Grant Shapps.

COP 21

The United Nations Framework on Climate Change meetings (COP 21) are underway. Power Africa will be in Paris to champion efforts to build cleaner, more climate-resilient power sectors that serve all people. We are also hosting two events on the sidelines of the conference. You should have received an invitation to our discussion on Inclusive Renewable Energy in Africa, which will be a conversation with Power Africa partners. If you can’t join us in Paris, the event will be streamed live at state.gov/uscenter, and you can join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #AskUSCenter. And, we are hosting a reception to celebrate the release of our Understanding Power Purchase Agreements handbook in French. Please join us if you’re able.

We hope you find these new monthly updates useful, and we encourage you to send us your news and success stories. We would love to feature more of your work as we move together towards our goals. With the December holidays fast approaching, expect to hear from us again soon. Until then, enjoy the season, and thanks for all you do to Power Africa!

Last updated: June 07, 2016

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