Africa Clean Energy Corridor: Harnessing Africa’s renewable potential

Energy ministers and delegates from 19 African countries met in Abu Dhabi last week to commit to the creation of an ambitious initiative: the Africa Clean Energy Corridor.

The corridor, an interconnected, prominently renewable energy-powered electricity grid, will span eastern Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town and will seek to harness this region’s large renewable energy renewable potential in geothermal, wind and solar to meet the rising African energy demand.

The need to develop sub-Saharan Africa’s energy sector is well known. To put it in perspective, the country of Spain has more installed energy capacity than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. That means 30 countries are facing endemic power shortages, and nearly 600 million people still lack electricity access.

To address this and provide for the continent’s need, electricity demand is expected to triple in Southern Africa and quadruple in Eastern Africa over the next quarter-century.

In providing for this need, the endorsement of the Africa Clean Energy Corridor is a great step.

“The Africa Clean Energy Corridor helps leverage the tremendous opportunity that renewable energy presents, for the best of the African states and the entire continent,” H.E. Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, said.

Unlike some other regions, East Africa is rich in various renewable energy resources.  So, where possible, seizing this energy potential makes a lot of sense.  A cross-government-endorsed regional approach that will help optimize the energy mix, help lower risk and attract more investment – like the Africa Clean Energy Corridor plan will hopefully do – thus makes a lot of sense.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which helped bring leaders together to endorse the plan, will also be working with countries to see it implemented.

IRENA will use its technical expertise to identify possible high-density renewable energy development zones; how the “corridor” infrastructure can link up to existing electricity transmission lines being built; investment frameworks and viable funding models that will scale up this renewable energy investment.

Currently Ethiopia, who will be a major part of the corridor, hosts the continent’s biggest wind farm and has plans for 800 megawatts of wind and 1 gigawatt of geothermal. This Corbetti Project is a new model for developing large scale power projects in Africa, and is part of the Power Africa initiative that President Obama announced last summer.

As plans around the Africa Clean Energy Corridor become clearer, it is hoped that Power African can support even more of these projects as part of it is support for the African countries to responsibly develop their energy resources.

Learn how ONE members are helping to support energy in Africa here.