African leaders have resolved to connect the continent’s 640 million people without electricity to a grid by 2030. They intend to achieve this feat through the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI).
AREI, which aims to produce 300 gigawatts (GW) of electricity for the continent by 2030, is meant to be Africa’s major contribution to the Conference of Parties (COP21) taking place in Paris, France.
AREI is meant to ensure universal access to clean renewable energy and help stimulate economic and sustainable growth at the same time, while fighting carbon emissions.
It is expected to deliver 10GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020 and mobilise the African potential to generate at least 300GW by 2030.
AREI is an outcome of African leadership in Workstream II of the Durban Platform, including their May 2014 proposal for a global renewable energy support programme.
It has been endorsed by African heads of state (AU Assembly and Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change) and Ministers of Environment (AMCEN) the G7 (Elmau Summit), and the G20 (Energy Summit).
Speaking at the launch of the project at the Africa Pavilion in Paris, Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the major sponsors of the initiative, said the institution will triple its financing to climate change initiatives by 2020, dedicating 40 per cent of the Bank’s resources to such efforts.
“Africa has 640 million of its people who don’t have access to electricity. A total of 7 million Africans have no access to clean energy and majority use charcoal and kerosene. This always leads to deaths. We must stop this,” Adesina said.
In his estimation, “the initiative is a game-changer, as Africa loses 4 per cent of its GDP due to lack of clean energy.”
“Sunshine should do more than just nourish our crops. It must light our homes. Our massive water resources should do more than water our farms, it should power our industries. Potential is important, but homes and industries cannot be powered by potential. Africa must unlock its renewable energy potentials,” the AfDB President added.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), applauded the initiative on renewable energy, terming it transformative.
“We need to light up Africa and practice smart agriculture. This will save the dwindling waters of our lakes and transform the lives of our women, who bear the brunt of climate change. We should invest more in technology and innovation so that we equip our youths with the necessary skills to transform our continent,” she said.
Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said: “Affordable and renewable energy is critical for Africa. The continent does not need fossil fuel but low carbon power which should come from hydropower, biomass, marine, geothermal, wind, solar.”
“The annual production of 160GW of power by the continent is not even half of Japan’s capacity. What sub-Saharan Africa produces is less than what South Africa produces. Time to act is now to change the situation,” Lopes said.
For his part, President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin said: “We need energy to transform our agriculture. Let us not rely on the fluctuating rains but invest in new technology to grow our economies.”
The African Development Bank is working to put in place all necessary arrangements to host the AREI Delivery Unit, as well as serve as the Trustee as requested by the AREI Partners and ensure the immediate implementation of the initiative. It fits into the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa that has an ambitious target of universal access by 2025 (which entails 100% urban access and 95% rural access).