Africa’s ‘Clean Energy Corridor’ Sparking Cross-border Cooperation

Africa’s ‘Clean Energy Corridor’ Sparking Cross-border Cooperation

Showing progress towards greater cross-border cooperation to develop renewable energy projects, energy ministers from 19 countries are pushing ahead with the creation of the Africa Clean Energy Corridor.

“The Africa Clean Energy Corridor will provide the continent with the opportunity to leapfrog into a sustainable energy future,” Adnan Z. Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency’s Director-General said at a January meeting launching the project. “The dynamic development that Africa will see in the next decades needs to extend to the energy sector, and Africa’s abundant renewable energy resources are a perfect match to meet rising demand in a sustainable and cost-effective way – from Cairo to Cape Town.”

Spearheaded by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Africa Clean Energy Corridor would create a 5,000-mile north-south electricity transmission grid stretching from Egypt through Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Of particular importance is the Ethiopia to South Africa line to be completed by 2020. Another priority project is the 2,300-mile Central Africa Transmission Corridor linking the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Africa through Angola and Namibia, and north to Chad through Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon.

The second stage of development through 2040 involves the interconnection of all these power corridors into one continuous power grid linking clusters of renewable energy projects to the West African Power Pool grid, which links Ghana to Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the goal Africa Clean Energy Corridor is to promote a “regional approach to developing the vast renewable energy resources that will help optimize the energy mix and attract more investment.”

A World Bank report, Turning the Lights on Across Africa, notes that regional power
planning and power trade can address the continent’s chronic struggle for adequate and affordable electricity generation.

“Developing power trade requires significant investments to expand cross-border transmission capacity,” World Bank Africa region spokesman, Phil Hay told AFKInsider.
“Currently, in Sub-Saharan Africa some 72,000 miles of links exist, while over 20,000 miles remain missing.”

The key to the Africa Clean Energy Corridor’s “action agenda” is the creation of “renewable energy development zones” – special areas where renewable energy projects would be clustered based on resource potential, land suitability and infrastructure. Clustering these projects will make it easier to access the high-voltage transmission lines being built to send the electricity generated to where it’s needed and boost the energy trade between the power pools.

The focus is on regional project with a north-south transmission corridor is also part of the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Development Bank’s Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which estimates the cost at $360 billion through to 2040.

To this end, the initial focus will be on connecting the 10-country East African Power Pool with the 12-country Southern African Power Pool. With demand for electricity expected to double in the Southern African Power Pool and quadruple in the East African Power Pool within twenty-five years, the pools expect to save $47.5 billion and $32.5 billion respectively due to the regional optimization of power generation and transmission.

Expanding Regional Grids

The Africa Clean Energy Corridor builds on existing programs for power grid infrastructure development.

The Ethiopia-Sudan Transmission Interconnection Project was commissioned in 2013 and implementation of a further 930 miles of power grid for Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda is on-going while interconnections between Kenya and Tanzania; Uganda and DR Congo; and Tanzania and Zambia are advancing.

In May 2013, the Ethio-Kenya Electricity Highway Project was launched as the first step to alleviate an ongoing bottleneck during the cross-border exchange of electric power with construction of a 650-mile power line to interconnect Ethiopia and Kenya. With help, the $1.3 billion project – with loans from the African Development Bank and World Bank – is scheduled to be completed by 2016.

The World Bank also approved $380 million on May 2 to help expand sustainable urban infrastructure and services in cities across Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopia has made clear that renewable energy will be a key economic driver with its growth and transformation plan, a five-year strategy through 2015 to reduce poverty and spur national economic growth by raising the national electrification rate to 75 percent.

Other projects include:

• In the last five years, the Mozambican government built 4,600 miles of transmission lines, giving the country the third highest electrification rate in the Southern African Development Community region.

• Namibia’s national power utility announced in April a $668 million grid expansion plan over the next five to seven years to deliver power to all parts of the country.

• Kenya’s 2014/2015 budget, announced in April, includes an estimated $91 million for, among other things, new grid connections. Kenya is also in final negotiations for $840 million worth of long term loans from a number of bilateral development lenders, including $160 million expected this September from the African Development Bank, with the goal of connecting 500,000 new customers a year over the next five years to increase electricity access from the current 32 percent to 75 percent.

• The African Development Bank approved a $26 million grant in December 2013 for construction of over 249 miles of power lines and installation of 195 transformer stations in South Sudan, where only 1 percent of the population has access to grid electricity.

Pooling Economic Resources

An interconnected electric grid is important for the economy and businesses that need to make energy-related decisions. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, more than 30 African countries experience power shortages and regular interruptions to service causing firms often lose 5 to 20 percent of potential business and losses to GDP typically ranging from 2 to 6 percent in some African countries.