This past October 31, while Halloween trick-or-treaters enjoyed candy-charged revelry here in Washington, D.C., we at the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) had a celebration of our own fueled by the promise of renewable energy expansion in low income countries.
On this day, a high-level delegation from Liberia presented their investment plan to the Sub-Committee of the CIF’s Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low Income Countries Program (SREP), which enthusiastically endorsed the plan for $50 million. Liberia will use SREP resources to support efforts to increase energy access through off-grid electricity solutions; develop renewable energy such as small hydro, solar, biomass, and hybrids; and complement expansion of centralized generation and transmission facilities to contribute to the national goal of achieving 35 percent electrification rate by 2030.
Yes, that’s right—35 percent is a national goal. Following years of civil war, the installed capacity of Liberia Electricity Corporation’s diesel-powered grid is a mere 23 MW. The country has a nationwide electrification rate of just 1.6 percent and the highest electricity tariff in Sub-Saharan Africa at US$0.50/kWh. When I presented Liberia’s electrification rate to the SREP Sub-Committee last year, some members wondered if there was a typo. The stark reality shocked even people working in the development field.
SREP support to Liberia is cause for celebration, not only because it will benefit 9 percent of the population (that’s 4 million people), but the SREP planning process has focused stakeholder attention and political resolve around concrete actions for increased energy access via renewables.
Cheers also go to SREP pilot countries Honduras, Mali, Kenya, and Nepal, home to winning private sector project proposals of the SREP competitive private sector set-asides. These four renewable energy projects were endorsed for further preparation by the multilateral development banks for SREP funding approval, totaling $60 million. A second round of competition will be organized to fund even more private sector projects in SREP pilot countries.
And the party grows… the SREP Sub-Committee also decided to welcome new pilot countries to SREP. There are more than 30 countries who have expressed interest in joining the SREP. Some are already developing investment plans with SREP financial support. With this decision, the SREP could expand its pilot country ranks from the current eight to 24!
Finally, there are signs that some donors will make additional pledges to the SREP to support new pilot countries like Liberia that are in dire need of increased energy access. Norway made an announcement of its intention to pledge additional resources, and we hope that other donors will follow suit.
With these advancements, spirits are running high. SREP resources—$524 million in pledges to date—are still minuscule to confront the daunting challenge of bringing modern energy to the 1.2 billion people in the developing world without basic access. But, the SREP is making a difference where it can and demonstrating actions and successes worth repeating and applauding.