Africa Cannot Develop Without Adequate and Affordable Energy
By Abdi Ali
Published May 13, 2017
Hydro-power is crucial to providing reliable and sustainable energy development for transformation of economies in Africa.
Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, noted while opening the 6th World Hydropower Congress (WHC) in Addis Ababa on May 9, 2017 that development is unthinkable in the absence of adequate and affordable energy.
The Premier said Africa will not achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without universal access to electricity.
“I would like to reiterate the need for collective efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said as he emphasised the need for the world to pool resources together on this front.
Abdalla Hamdok, Acting Executive Secretary for United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), called on African governments to come up with ‘strong and coherent policies to promote faster and more inclusive growth through the optimal use of hydro-power and other sources of renewable energy’.
With more than 600 million people in Africa living without access to electricity and households continuing to rely on traditional biomass for cooking, Hamdok observed that it is pertinent for Africa to tap into its vast renewable energy sources.
“With clear vision coupled with strong and coherent policy action to promote faster and more inclusive growth, the continent has the potential to take the lead in innovation, technologies and business models that utilise hydro-power optimally and efficiently,” Hamdock said.
He however noted that it is equally important for the continent to guard against negative impacts of hydropower development and to pay close attention to climate resilience and social inclusion.
“This is mostly linked to growing concerns regarding hydro-power sustainability, including the over-reliance on hydro-power which could possibly compromise energy security in many countries, especially in the context of drought,” Hamdock said.”I am glad to note that the agenda of this congress includes items of environmental and social impact in the context of hydro-power development.”
Saying it is important to develop an integrated approach to the management of water for irrigation and energy production, Hamdock said ECA and the African Union Commission (AUC) are working closely with key stakeholders on a number of initiatives to promote low carbon energy development as well as innovative financing regimes for clean energy infrastructure projects to support the implementation of both the global Sustainable Development Goals Agenda and the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063.
“Access to modern and sustainable energy services is crucial to achieving sustainable, transformative and inclusive development,” said Quartey Thomas Kwesi, Deputy Chairperson, of the AUC. “The development and expansion of renewable energy provides one of the most effective strategies to simultaneously promote development, sustainable energy access and energy security as well as climate change mitigation at the global, continental and regional levels.”
Liu Zhenya, chairman of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), presented to the participants the concept of ‘global energy interconnection’ (GEI) as “the inevitable way out for clean and low-carbon energy transition”.
“It is imperative for us to accelerate the green and low-carbon transition. The key to realising that is to bring forward a new energy supply system prioritised by clean energy development and power supply with large-scale optimal allocation of the GEI platform,” he said. “Let’s work hand in hand for African energy interconnections with more communication and common consent, and make our due contribution to sustainable development.”
“My message today is that achieving Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without breaking barriers and widening the scope of collaboration between all of our institutions. We must embrace the fact that one single technology will not resolve the challenges of our generation,” he said.“We need more hydropower on the grid, as it plays a role as a flexible, sustainable generation source. We also need it to play the often unrecognised role of energy storage.”
Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) and special representative of the UN secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, said, “Better Hydro is an important way to meet the goal of sustainable energy agreed by all countries and the ambition of the Paris climate agreement. It offers affordable, cleaner, reliable energy as well as storage which can crowd in more solar and wind development.The challenge of securing sustainable energy for all by 2030 means we have to move forward with speed and scale. We hope that the World Hydro-power Congress will spur rapid progress.”
The three-day 6th World Hydro-power Congress (WHC), that was held in Africa for the first time, brought together leaders and specialists with hydro-power-related responsibilities from government, industry, finance, United Nations agencies, academia and civil society chart the course for hydro-power development and operation over the next 10 years, aiming to ensure reliable and resilient water and energy systems in the world and to spur sustainable development for all.
The biennial conference was organised by the International Hydro-power Association (IHA) with the support of ECA, AUC, the African Development Bank, the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organisation, and the World Bank Group.