Google Investment Could Drive Down Cost of Wind Energy for Africans and Americans

By Ariel Gandolfo

Earlier this month, CNBC reported that Google is in negotiations to invest in Africa’s largest wind power project, which is set to break ground this Thursday. Located in Kenya, the $700 million Lake Turkana wind farm represents the largest single private investment in Kenya’s history. The expected 310 megawatt output could increase national energy capacity by 20 percent, filling a crucial gap in a country where more than 75 percent of the population lacks electricity, even after the government spends over one hundred million dollars per year on fuel imports.

The investment clearly makes sense for the forward-thinking tech giant, because more Kenyans with electricity means more people able to use Google products; the company’s strategy dovetails philanthropy with its core business interests by enlarging its long-term customer base. While Google has concentrated its renewable energy technology investments in California and the American Southwest, it also invested $12 million in the solar Jasper Power Project in South Africa in 2013, and the Turkana wind farm could be its second large-scale investment in African energy infrastructure.

The wind array will be constructed on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, pictured here.

The wind array will be constructed on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, pictured here.

Clean energy investments are a cornerstone of American foreign policy on the African continent, and the Obama administration has leveraged billions of dollars from the private sector and philanthropic foundations to scale up investments in clean energy innovation. President Obama’s flagship Power Africa initiative, housed in USAID, is the most notable for international development. By collaborating with African governments and private companies, Power Africa aims to add 30,000 megawatts of clean electricity generation and provide electricity to 60 million new homes and businesses. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup

This week in development…

U.S. Development Policy/International Organizations

  • The United Nations has requested $1 billion for the first half of 2015 in order to eradicate Ebola in West Africa, especially for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the “epidemic has started to turn.” Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Special Envoy on Ebola announced on Wednesday the new appeal for increased aid focused on re-establishing important social services and improving the security of individuals in the region.
  • Andrew Lansley, the former UK Health secretary and leader of the House of Commons, is a potential appointee for the role of UN relief head. Lansley faces intense opposition from more than eighty major disaster-relief NGOs globally, who are concerned that his candidacy is driven by his political positioning and that his lack of inexperience could be a serious impediment to the disaster-relief sector. The 80 international relief organizations implored UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to establish a panel of experts to help him select the candidate, a move which could hurt Lansley’s prospects.
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) released a statement on Thursday with new data suggesting that private sector services and a rising care economy are expected to provide employment for more than a third of the global workforce over the next five year period. Many public sector services that comprise the service economy, such as health care, education and administration, will be important employment resources. This shift signals the changing role of policies to support enterprise and the labor force. It also illustrates an amplified engagement with opportunities interconnected to new technologies.

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