The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) says it has doubled its African energy investments since President Barack Obama launched the Power Africa initiative in June last year.
The agency, which has a mandate to promote US exports by funding project planning, pilot projects, and reverse trade missions across the world, is one of 12 US government agencies tasked with helping to drive Power Africa, which is backed by $7-billion in financial support and loan guarantees.
Director Leocadia Zak tells Engineering News Online that energy currently comprises 67% of USTDA’s overall portfolio, with clean-energy making up the lion’s share of its energy investments.
African clean-energy programmes are being coordinated from the US-Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center, which has been established in Johannesburg by the USTDA, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the US.
Zak says Power Africa has already catalysed interest in the African energy sector and reports that US firms are showing a greater eagerness to pursue both South African and African energy prospects.
“We are very serious about this market,” she says.
During a visit to South Africa in early June, Zak signed grants for three renewable-energy projects, including:

* A grant agreement with Ample Solar, of the US, for two concentrated solar power (CSP) plants being planned for the Northern Cape;
* Support for Basil Read Energy, which is pursuing a run-of-river hydropower project, which is likely to be packaged to participate in a future bid window under South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme; and
* An agreement with telecommunications group Plessey to fund a pilot project using fuel-cell technology developed by Oorja Protonics, of the US, as the primary or secondary power supply for remote telecommunications tower sites.

In March, the agency also awarded a feasibility study grant to Solafrica for a 100 MW CSP plant, which is also under investigation in South Africa’s Northern Cape province.
Zak stresses that, while solar has been a major feature of its recent activities, it is looking to facilitate partnerships between US and African businesses in a range of energy activities and technologies to meet the Power Africa target of adding 10 000 MW of new capacity across the continent.
“We also believe that Power Africa is really one of the reasons why US businesses are focusing as much as they are on Africa right now.”
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter