The Race to Solar-Power Africa: EU Funding to Support Off-Grid Energy Sector

Written by | Friday, November 24th, 2017

The European Union has been supporting Africa’s renewable energy transition for years in an effort to bring electricity to all Africans. In 2015, the EU Commission launched an Electricity Access Fund with a special focus on off-grid renewably energy, particularly solar power. The fund is looking to invest 55 million euro across the continent by 2020.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is going to contribute €10 million of the fund’s capital, which seeks to provide access to electricity for one million low-income people. Around a fourth of that fund has been financially covered so far. “We are trying to close a deal on two solar projects in Western Kenya,” said Catherine Collin, the EIB’s regional representative. “Clearly, it’s a priority for the bank,” Ms. Collin added. “The region is very fortunate to have plenty of renewable energy sources. We would like to do more in the other countries and help them to diversify.”

Sun is an easily available resource in Africa while also solar technology is improving. Moreover, modern services such as paying bills by mobile phones are much more popular than bank accounts, which facilitates access to electricity. The combined grid capacity of 48 sub-Saharan African countries is roughly equivalent to that of Spain and the continent will need almost 340 billion euro of investment to attain universal access across the continent by 2030.

While this target will probably not be met, domestic demand will likely remain high. Currently, for example, only about half of the Kenyan population has access to grid and an average Kenyan household spends around $200 on kerosene, a derivative of petroleum used as a cooking and lighting fuel.

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