Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN), along with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Mike Johanns (R-NE) introduced the Energize Africa Act, a bill seeking to help contribute a meaningful role in providing nearly 600 million Africans with electricity. The legislation will make it US policy to help 50 million Africans with first-time access to electricity and add 20,000 megawatts of electricity to the grid by 2020.
"U.S. leadership can help provide modern, clean, reliable, and affordable energy services to people lacking access to electricity, and this legislation will help jump start that effort," said Menendez. "We must develop power solutions for people across Africa based on a comprehensive plan to attract private investment. It does not simply mean building new power plants, it means working to build brighter futures. New off-grid technologies and working with utilities to attract private investment will help create American export jobs and stimulate economic growth in Africa."
"To be most effective with limited foreign aid resources, we should focus our efforts on things like electricity where we can ultimately reduce the need for U.S. support over time. Leveraging private capital can help bring financially viable electric power to millions of people for the first time, transforming lives and creating economic opportunities that would not exist otherwise," said Senator Corker.
"Access to reliable energy is critical to Africa's growth and prosperity, and increased economic partnerships with the United States," Senator Coons said. "Africa's future is more promising than ever before, yet widespread energy poverty and a lack of access to distributed energy infrastructure holds back too many countries across the continent. The Energize Africa bill brings together the public and private sectors to expand energy access, develop new power sources, promote renewables and distributed energy solutions, and support improved energy sector governance. Reliable energy is the foundation of vibrant economies, and I'm proud we've been able to come together in a bipartisan way to strengthen critical partnerships in the energy sector between Africa and the U.S." Senator Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.
"Seven out of 10 people living in Africa have no access to electricity," said Senator Isakson. "Greater access to electricity will save lives, alleviate extreme poverty and accelerate growth. I am proud to join my colleagues on the Energize Africa Act, which sets forth a coordinated strategy for the United States to work with Africa to achieve the important goal of improving access to energy on the continent."
The legislation includes the following components:
Requires the President to create a comprehensive strategy for United States' engagement with sub-Saharan Africa in developing a broad mix of power solutions to increase electricity access and reliability;
Encourages the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), USAID, the U.S. Department of Treasury, World Bank, U.S. Trade and Development Agency, and African Development Bank to prioritize loans, grants, and technical support that promote private investment in projects designed to increase electricity access and reliability;
Authorizes OPIC to continue ongoing work through 2019 and provides limited additional authorities specifically for use on power projects in sub-Saharan Africa. These authorities for sub-Saharan Africa power projects include:
Expedited procedures for small projects,
Promoting partnerships between U.S. joint ventures and African partners to develop responsible electricity generation and,
Lending to encourage investments in the power sector in Africa by making certain U.S. investors eligible for loans of $50 million or less,
Expands local currency guaranties for local branches of foreign banks
Extends term of assistance possible for renewable energy projects
Creates a new inspector general for OPIC
Allows OPIC to hire a limited number of temporary employees
Commissions OPIC's new inspector general to provide a report on OPIC's ability to support infrastructure and energy projects and evaluate if the ability to invest directly in projects would help or hurt support for such projects.