Published On: Thu, Feb 19th, 2015

Obama’s Power Africa initiative impact encouraging

US President Barak Obama

US President Barak Obama

JOHANNESBURG – ANDREW Herscowitz, Coordinator for United States President Barack Obama’s initiative to improve access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, is encouraged by the impact of the initiative thus far.

Power Africa, the initiative, is the official country partner of the upcoming African Utility Week conference and expo scheduled for the Cape Town International Conference Centre in South Africa from May 12-14.

“Power Africa has achieved quite a lot in the first year and a half,” Herscowitz said in an exclusive interview.

He said they had set an original goal of 10 000MW and 20-million connections and already had helped more than 4000MW power deals in the six focus countries reach financial close, representing roughly 40 percent of the original target.

“And now that we have really opened up the gate to the entire continent, I think we can expect to see a lot more projects advance really quickly,” said Herscowitz.

“The other thing is, because we were reaching our goals a little bit more quickly than we expected and the model has been embraced even better than we could have hoped, President Obama tripled our goals last summer after one year, from 10 000MW to 30 000MW and 20 million connections to 60 million new home and business connections.”

He cited some success stories in a number of countries.

“Well, to reach the big megawatt goals, you are going to have to do a lot of big gas projects and other types of projects like that. But one of the smaller megawatt successes is, for example, project in Rwanda.”

The US government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation, gave a grant to a company called Gigawatt Global, which has recently commissioned 8,5MW solar project which is going to benefit rural communities. It is one of the first projects that really since Obama announced Power Africa.

He also raised the example of Liberia.

“When the Ebola outbreak was at its height, we saw that Power Africa activities, for obvious reasons, were getting stalled because of people having to leave the country and people were focusing on the more humanitarian and medical issues,” said Herscowitz.

Power Africa reprogrammed about US$2-million of Power Africa funds to enhance Ebola treatment units in the country.

However, he heaped reserved prominent praise for a project in Ethiopia.

“The one project that I really, really love and that we have our eye on and that we have high hopes for is the 500MW Corbetti geothermal project in Ethiopia.”

Reykjavik Geothermal, a US company, has the right to generate up to 1 000 MW of geothermal power in Ethiopia and East Africa has between 15 000 and 20 000 MW in potential geothermal power which is a really great, clean renewable energy source.

He outlined the company’s role at the African Utility Week.

“We’re here to listen and to respond. Power Africa is working all over sub-Saharan Africa to increase access to electricity.

“So momentum has continued to build more and more but it is also started to show more results and results is what is getting us more interest. When we work together we can have a massive impact. And that is
how we are going to double access, together.”

– CAJ News

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