I am a Senior Climate Finance Officer at the African Development Bank. We work to contribute to the economic growth and social progress of our African member states. Right now, I want to talk a little about the importance of energy to Africa and how Concentrated Solar Power – or CSP - can help.

Talking about the power of solar at the Connect4Climate Media Zone, #C4CZone

As you may know, Africa’s power sector is significantly underdeveloped.  This is true whether we look at energy access, installed capacity, or overall consumption.

For example, we estimate that around 645 million Africans have no access to electricity: this is more than 50% of the entire African population. And represents nearly half of those living without electricity in the entire world.

Imagine half of you reading this post, living without electricity?

It’s a scary thought isn’t it?

African countries must significantly expand power generation if we are to achieve universal access. And we must do it at a time where the need to respond to climate change offers an immense opportunity to drive the economic transformation that Africa needs.

A transformation that creates jobs, empowers women and above all is climate-resilient and low-carbon.

Africa has enormous renewable energy potential. This potential, if we include solar, is a staggering 10 terawatts. This is ten times more than the actual installed capacity of the US.

Africa must unlock this potential and realize its aspirations, which would represent a win-win situation for developed countries, investors and, above all, the African people.

Recently, one of the finest actors and climate activists of our time – his name Leonardo Di Caprio - posted a picture on Instagram of the biggest CSP plant in the world. A project so big it can be seen from space!

Can you believe that? The project in question is Noor CSP in Morocco. Once all phases of the project are completed it will have a total installed capacity of 2000 MW. This is more than the installed capacity of many African countries. 

As a technology, CSP’s main strength is its capacity to store energy without needing inefficient and expensive batteries. Essentially, that means it can be used during periods when there is no sun, which allows the power plant to provide reliable and flexible electricity to the grid during periods of peak demand. That might be during the night or during times of the day when there is no sufficient sunlight.

And CSP is such a promising technology that the International Energy Agency estimates that it could generate up to 11 percent of the world’s electricity generation by 2050.

Unfortunately, high technology costs and a lack of utility-scale demonstration projects are deterring investors.  This is especially the case in emerging markets where perception of risk is still a significant barrier. In order to prove the economic and technological viability of concentrated solar, many more projects are needed across the globe to ensure technology maturity and to drive true competition in an effort to bring down its costs.

Enter the Noor complex, one of the strongest examples of this, which by 2018 will be supplying electricity to 1.1 million Moroccans.   

The project also provides one of the best examples of what risk-taking, long-term concessional financing, paired with other public and private investment can accomplish. About $400 million from the Climate Investment Funds were invested in the project. There is also 200 million euros from the African Development Bank and $3 billion from other private and public sources.

In addition to the flourishing of a local solar industry in Morocco, many lessons are already being drawn from this success story.

For example, the project will help demonstrate the viability of this technology by establishing a track record and help build economies of scale. In the long-run, it will also draw public and private actors to work together on similar projects across the world.

Finding ways to sustainably meet Africa’s and the world’s energy demands is a global imperative.  And Morocco is showing how renewable energy can play a key role in helping emerging economies produce clean power and reduce emissions. 

It is an honor for us at the AfDB, and I am sure for the Climate Investment Funds as well, to be part of this success story. My hope is that this is the first of many more ambitious solar projects to come.

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