With the emergence of new opportunities in technologies, partnerships, and climate financing, closing the energy access gap is more within the reach of African countries today than it was ever before. This was the central message of the Green Household Energy Solutions Expo held during the African Energy Ministerial meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa on September 15-16, 2011.
The Expo, highlighting off-grid lighting and cooking technologies, was a key opportunity to integrate household energy into the broader discussions on energy and climate change strategies in preparation of the COP17 Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa in December of this year. The World Bank Group’s ongoing Lighting Africa program and the soon-to-be-launched Africa Clean Cooking Initiative, in partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, were showcased at the event, which saw impressive attendance the gathered African ministers and conference participants.
Lighting Africa’s objective is to transition the off-grid lighting market from fossil fuel-based lighting to clean alternatives, such as solar LED lights. This rapidly evolving technology promises cost-effective, clean and safe lighting solutions for “base of the pyramid” consumers, covering their primary electricity needs, including lighting and cell phone charging, at prices comparable or lower than their current expenses for kerosene.
The imperative for action on household energy access is clear. Today, 590 million Africans lack access to electricity and spend over US$8 billion per year on kerosene and other inferior fuels that harm their health. 680 million rely on wood-based biomass for their cooking needs, using polluting cookstoves that lead to indoor air pollution and severe diseases. Lack of access to clean household energy solutions impedes progress towards key development targets, including those for poverty reduction, health, gender, and the environment.
The event began with a keynote by the Minister of Economic Development for South Africa, Ebrahim Patel, who said that by leveraging new global technologies, African entrepreneurs could develop partnerships to bring clean and affordable lighting and cooking solutions to all Africans, while also creating jobs on the ground. ESMAP provided support to the Africa Energy Ministerial meeting through funding, logistical planning, and helping to develop the agenda for the gathering.