US gives $1.1 million for East Africa power projects

Saturday September 5 2015

By JEFF OTIENO, The EastAfrican

Energy companies in Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia are among the beneficiaries of a $1.1 million grant from three United States organisations to help expand the use of clean energy in East Africa.

The 11 companies, some from West Africa, will each receive a $100,000 grant to expand renewable energy projects.

The programme, dubbed the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, is part of the Beyond the Grid Initiative funded by General Electric Africa, US African Development Foundation (USADF) and the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

The $5 million three-year Challenge Award is expected to benefit more than 50 companies on the continent.

“These energy entrepreneurs are finding solutions for rural communities to access power, including solar-powered mini-grids, home solar systems and revolving credit funds,” GE Africa, USAid and USADF said in a joint statement.

The winning projects focus on renewable energy, mainly solar, biogas and hydroelectricity generation, and are expected to provide electricity and light to more than 10,000 people.

The Off-Grid Energy Challenge is part of President Obama’s Power Africa programme, a partnership between the US government, African governments and private sector organisations.

While unveiling the initiative in 2013, President Obama pledged to double power generation in Africa within five years. The initiative currently focuses on Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Its initial goal was to add 10,000MW and 20 million new connections in the six sub-Saharan countries.

But in August 2014, during the first US-Africa leaders summit, President Obama announced a tripling of Power Africa’s goal — adding 30,000MW and 60 million connections across sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, President Obama pledged to support the programme at a new level of $300 million per year.

In Kenya, Ambalian Company will use the $100,000 grant awarded to install a wind turbine in the north to replace diesel-powered generators currently used to pump water.

In Tanzania, Lupali will spend its grant to connect villagers to low-cost electricity produced by the Benedictine Sisters of St Gertrude Convent’s 317kW electricity project in the Njombe region in the southwest.

In Ethiopia, GM Clean Energy won the grant to produce biogas stoves for use by off-grid, marginalised communities.

Andrew Herscowitz, co-ordinator for Power Africa, said the initiative has assisted private sector projects that are expected to generate 4,100MW.