AFRICANGLOBE – In a bellwether project for the World Bank’s new low-carbon energy policy, the development institution Tuesday said it will plow $340 million into a new hydroelectric project for three central African nations.
In July, the bank’s executive board backed new lending guidelines for power projects that limits investment in coal-fired power plants because of their greenhouse gas emissions and boosts loans for hydro power.
Under the helm of U.S.-appointed Jim Yong Kim, the bank wants to use its lending power to cut manmade emissions such as carbon dioxide and methane thought to accelerate changes in the earth’s climate.
Although many environmental groups have pushed for the change, it has also been a controversial one. Even though coal-fired generation has traditionally been the cheapest electricity source — a primary concern for poor countries — it also emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases per megawatt of energy produced. Not all U.S. lawmakers, which fund the lion’s share of the World Bank’s accounts, believe the climate science is definitively settled.
Jamal Saghir, director of the bank’s department for sustainable development in Africa, says that at around 6 cents a megawatt-hour, this project puts the average power plant costs of roughly 23 cents a megawatt-hour to shame.
The Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project, about 60 miles west of Lake Victoria, will provide power to Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania, an area of Africa where only a tiny fraction of the population have power. For scale, the plant’s peak generation is more than twice as large as Burundi’s entire electricity capacity.
“This project provides reliable power supply to three electricity grids, it reduces electricity costs, it promotes renewable energy, will boost economic growth and will pave the way for more dynamic regional cooperation,” Mr. Saghir said.
Besides reliable power sources helping to cut business costs, give customers more access to services and fueling manufacturing growth, studies have linked installation of a village light source to child intelligence as it allows more study and reading, especially with parents in the evening, he said. There’s also security: putting a light at school means girls are more likely to attend, boosting literacy rates and economic potential.
“These kinds of projects are transformational,” Mr. Saghir said.
By: Ian Talley