Africa may not achieve affordable, clean energy goal

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A new study unveiled by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has reported that 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity, while 900 million have no access to clean cooking fuel.

The study, unveiled on Tuesday during a virtual ministerial meeting, was entitled “Energy Prices in Africa: Transition towards Clean Energy for Africa’s Industrialization.”

Fewer than half the population in 24 countries have access to electricity, according to an ECA statement issued Wednesday.

The report said Liberia, Malawi, the Central African Republic, Burundi, and South Sudan have stagnated or reversed in electricity access. Countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia reportedly have the biggest electricity access deficits.

“There’s no way Africa can build forward better if we do not make adequate investments in energy and ensure affordable access for all,” said ECA Executive Secretary Vera Songwe.

The United Nations under-secretary-general urged countries to ensure that there’s cost reflective pricing in the energy sector.

Moderating the session, Oliver Chinganya, director of the African Center for Statistics (ACS) noted that the access to cheap and clean energy is an essential component of Africa’s transformation and industrialization.

“In the context of AfCFTA deployment and implementation, supplying economies with affordable fuel is integral to supporting actions for faster achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063,” Chinganya said, referring to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

The report deplores the fact that Africa relies mainly on fossil fuels and biomes instead of diversifying its primary energy supply, given its plethora of resources.

“Households use 86 percent of biofuel and waste energy for cooking, while the transport sector consumes 78 percent of oil. Natural gas is mainly used in industrial sector,” it said.

In his presentation, Anthony Monganeli Mehlwana, an ECA economic affairs officer, pointed to the urgent need to invest in electricity infrastructure, diversify electricity supply and embrace modern renewables.

He said “high energy production costs, transmission and distribution losses, at 18-25 percent, means that utilities need to be constantly bailed out and subsidies implemented for users.”

According to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 tracking report, at this rate, Africa will not meet the SDG 7 targets due to limited supply and access to electricity. About 40 billion U.S. dollars worth of investments per year is needed to meet the continent’s energy needs.

The report recommends that countries must provide an enabling environment for crowding-in private sector investments in electricity sector; apply cost reflective tariffs while paying attention to efficient generation of electricity to lower the costs; and provide incentives and mechanisms to increase the share of renewable energy in the power systems.

The study also highlights the need for countries to introduce natural gas as a transitionary fuel to replace coal and facilitate full deployment of renewables. Enditem

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