Economic Watch: China-proposed energy initiative sheds light on Africa's sustainable development

BEIJING, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- The China-proposed energy initiative called Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) can promote the socio-economic development in Africa and open up a new chapter of China-Africa energy and power cooperation.

Liu Zhenya, chairman of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), made the remarks during the 2019 Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) & China-Africa Energy and Power Conference taking place from Nov. 6 to 7 in Beijing.

In 2015, China proposed the GEI initiative with a view of meeting the global power demands with clean and green alternatives. Nowadays, GEIDCO currently has 756 members from 106 countries across five continents, with 42 cooperation agreements signed.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROSPERITY IN AFRICA

"Like many African countries, Burkina Faso owned very low grid coverage and a large number of people do not have access to electricity, but our country is rich in solar resources," Burkina Faso's Minister of Energy Bachir Ismael Ouedraogo told Xinhua.

The Africa-China cooperation in the energy and power sector could help African countries ensure power supply, promote industrial development, drive local employment, and facilitate economic growth, said Ouedraogo.

By 2050, when the global energy interconnection will be completed, the general output of Africa's metallurgical sector and exports of mineral products will exceed 480 billion and 100 billion U.S. dollars respectively, creating over 100 million jobs, according to estimates by GEIDCO.

Through providing loans, key technologies like ultra-high voltage transmission and smart grids, Chinese firms participated in the whole construction process of power stations and transmission lines with packaged solutions in Africa, said Lebbi Mwendavanli Changullah, secretary-general of Eastern African Power Pool.

Africa is a promising market for China Three Gorges Corporation, which has some clean energy projects such as hydropower, photovoltaic and wind power in several African countries, said Wang Lin, general manager and board director of the company.

Wang added that the hydropower station built by China Three Gorges in Uganda brought a 20-percent increase in Uganda's electricity supply as well as the transmission of electricity to neighboring countries.

INTERCONNECTIONS OF CLEAN ENERGY

GEIDCO data showed that the proven reserve of fossil fuels in Africa is only 3.4 percent of the world's total. However, according to Yu Jun, general manager of China Electric Power Equipment and Technology Corporation, the electricity supply still largely depends on that.

The technically available potential of hydro, solar and wind power respectively accounts for 12, 32 and 40 percent, said Yu, adding that clean energy would become the basis of Africa's sustainable development in the future.

Jeffery Sachs, a special adviser to UN Secretary-General on sustainable development goals, believed the problems of energy shortage in Africa should be solved in a clean and green way, noting that the idea of interconnection is extremely important.

Energy interconnection can help overcome the challenge of intermittency, said Sachs, explaining that people in one place couldn't get access to solar and wind power all the time while interconnection could ensure an average level of energy for all participants.

Yasuyo Yamazaki, CEO of Kuni Umi Asset Management Corporation, also spoke highly of GEI, saying that as an interconnected smart grid, it could provide a platform to exploit and transmit clean energy worldwide, and help underdeveloped countries to turn natural resources into economic advantages.

"The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the GEI should be working together," said Sachs, adding that the BRI could provide infrastructures to GEI and gain sustainable momentum with its help.