At the Close of U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, is Africa Any Brighter?
This week, African leaders converged on Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. While much discussion focused on the current Ebola crisis, topics were broad, covering a wide range from the challenging (such as AIDS and continental conflict) to the optimistic (such as region cooperation and access to better healthcare).
One topic on the minds of many was energy access, specifically to renewable sources. It’s no secret energy access in Africa is extremely limited and many countries rely on dirty biomass for power. More interest has been taken recently in investing in renewable energy in Africa, partially out of opportunity and partially because of necessity. Renewable energy hasn’t been left behind in Africa’s rapid economic growth, but there’s still much work to be done.
Much of the U.S.-Africa summit focused on business between the two and ended with Obama committing to further the U.S.’ partnership with Africa.
"Africa must know that they will always have a strong and reliable partner in the United States of America," he said.
And while efforts are very much still in preliminary stages, a number of major announcements were made this week in regards to funding for renewable energy projects.
President Obama announced that an additional $12 billion in funding is coming from private companies to help the administration’s efforts in getting Africa electrified.
Obama’s Power Africa program, announced last June, has already poured billions in resources into Sub-Saharan Africa. The program aims to add 30,000 MW of additional electrical capacity, which would help expand electricity access to at least 60 million households and business. The program came after a serious period of ignoring to the continent, noted by many.
“Before his current trip, President Obama’s Africa strategy was known for inattention at the highest level,” The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson wrote. “Former Chinese president Hu Jintao made five extensive visits to Africa as head of state. Obama spent 20 hours in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009. The intense affection of a continent seemed unrequited, and foreign policy experts wondered if U.S. emphasis on the region had been consciously downgraded.”
Gerson, who was cautiously optimistic about the program, noted in July of last year that more needed to be done.
“To ensure universal power access by 2030 would require about $18 billion in yearly energy investments,” he wrote. “The administration’s effort involves $7 billion over five years.”
This new commitment isn’t quite the cure-all that some believe the continent needs, but it’s certainly a step.
Also announced this week was the World Bank Group’s committing of $5 billion for energy projects in six African nations: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The countries will receive support in the form of investments, advising, and direct finances.
"We think that the U.S. Power Africa initiative will play an extremely important role in achieving the goal of providing electricity for Africa," World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim said. "The U.S. Government and the World Bank Group are working now on specific tasks and milestones which could help to achieve one quarter of Power Africa's goal of generating 10,000 megawatts of new power in Sub Saharan Africa."
The six economies the funding would help kick-start are some of the fastest growing in the region.
While these are definitely positive developments for Africa, not all are convinced they’re answers.
Ventures magazine notes the difficulty of enacting these sort of large-scale changes in Africa.
“Africa can be likened to an economic rose, showing lots of economic potential but surrounded with thorns that make it difficult to harness the potentials within,” the magazine explained. “In no small way, the lack of sufficient infrastructure in Africa dampens efforts to attain greater economic heights in Africa.”
There’s also a fear that funds will go toward non-renewable rather than renewable sources. Africa’s future has to be a renewable one, as fossil fuels and other energy sources have proven to be non-sustainable in the long term. Finding solutions in the short term will not solve Africa’s problem.
If nothing else, the U.S. needs to catch up in Africa.
“We are missing the boat,” former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday at the summit.
China and the European Union have taken great interest in Africa and it’s paid off. Ernst & Young calls Africa the second most attractive investment market behind North America.
In an analysis from the Brookings Institution, U.S. investments in African fell flat from 2010 to 2012.
"We have some catching up to do," former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "We are letting Europe and China go faster than us."
So, at the end of the summit, does Africa's renewable energy future look better? It's safe to say that it does, even a little bit, but the reality of what actually happens remains to be seen.
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.