African Power Play
HOUSTON—There's an opportunity for the U.S. to help change the energy landscape on the other side of the world.
I'm actually not talking about Ukraine and calls for accelerating U.S. natural gas exports to weaken Russia's hand in Europe (a debatable prospect), which is a hot topic in Washington and at a big energy conference here.
U.S. officials have, for a while, been engaged on the opportunities and challenges of expanding energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, where roughly 70 percent of the people lack electricity.
"This is very high-level," Robert Ichord, a senior State Department energy official, told National Journal. "We meet at the [National Security Council] all the time and it's a very strong commitment by all the heads of the agencies."
The White House last year announced "Power Africa," an effort to expand energy access that's designed to bring together federal agencies, African governments, multilateral development banks, and private companies.
"The fast-growing pace of energy demand in Africa and the needs for development are obviously central to our concerns about the future relationship with Africa and the importance of it in our foreign policy," said Ichord, deputy assistant secretary of State's Bureau of Energy Resources, in a panel discussion.
The U.S., under the Power Africa initiative, is committing $7 billion in aid and loan guarantees through 2018. But that's a tiny fraction of the investment needs. "We have got to develop these private sector models," Ichord said at the IHS CERAWeek energy conference.
The Africa energy initiative hasn't been all that high profile. But officials see an opportunity to make a lasting difference.
P.S. Will Congress support Obama's Climate Resilience Fund? Take the National Journal Energy Poll.
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