Remarks at the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative Launch

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
June 22, 2012

Date: 06/22/2012 Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Description: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remarks at the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative Launch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, June 22, 2012.  © AP Image/Victor R. Caivano

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Let me start by thanking Todd Stern, our Special Envoy for Climate Change. I want to introduce to you who you will hear from in a minute, Elizabeth Littlefield, the President and CEO of our Overseas Private Investment Corporation, known as OPIC. Also, Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of our Environmental Protection Agency and an extraordinary advocate on behalf of sustainable development and energy and the environment. 

There are so many distinguished guests here from across the world, but I particularly want to welcome the UN representatives and the delegations from South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, and Rwanda. It is – and Burundi. It is an excellent demonstration of your commitment to the goal of clean energy and the project that we are announcing today. And to all our other partners – especially those of you in the private sector, I thank you for your commitment.  

We are all here in Rio because we understand that sustainable development holds the key to our shared future to both our economic success and our environmental security. We also recognize that governments alone cannot solve all the problems we face, from climate change to persistent poverty to chronic energy shortages. That’s why we are so strongly in favor of partnerships, partnerships among governments, the private sector, and civil society.  

This week in Rio, the United States has announced a wide range of new projects and partnerships. We are joining Brazil to drum up support for urban sustainability programs. We are partnering with the World Bank and others to reduce harmful emissions from solid waste. And we’re working with companies like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and the rest of the Consumer Goods Forum to combat deforestation through sustainable supply chains.  

And today, I’m pleased to announce another partnership for sustainable development focused on bringing clean energy to Africa. Clean energy is something that we all say we’re for. We have given lots of speeches about it, but now is the time for us to act. And we know that as Africa is lifting off economically, with some of the fastest growing economies in the world in the midst of what is still a very precarious global economy, that clean energy will bring new jobs, create new livelihoods, support education, new businesses, healthier and more productive lives, as well as reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change. And we think that is a winning formula.  

Too many people and too many places cannot get reliable access to affordable electricity even as abundant energy sources, clean energy sources, remain unused. Africa is blessed with vast geothermal resources in the East, the world’s largest hydropower resources in the heart of the continent, and bright sunlight everywhere. Yet only one in four households in Africa has access to electricity today. That is 600 million men, women, and children living without power that can’t turn on the lights, can’t use a machine in a factory.  

Now why does this gap exist? It is not a technological hurdle. We know how to harness that energy and deliver it to the homes and businesses across Africa. It is because investors in this space often see obstacles and risks that stop them from investing in clean energy in Africa. Too few projects even make it past the initial planning stage. So even though all of the pieces are there – energy sources, technology, know-how, high demand – the investments that would bring all of that together have yet to materialize. So if we can remove some of the risk and cover some of the costs of preparing a project, we believe we can spur significant new private investments in clean energy. And that is the idea behind the partnership we are announcing today. 

The U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative will help clean energy projects in Africa get started. This is an innovative partnership between three United States Government entities – the State Department, OPIC, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. We want to drive private sector investment into the energy sector. We plan to use an initial $20 million grant fund to leverage much larger investment flows from OPIC. That will open the door then for hundreds of millions of dollars of OPIC financing, plus hundreds of millions of more dollars from the private sector for projects that otherwise would never get off the drawing board. 

We know that a small amount of project development support is often all that is needed to convince that entrepreneur, that energy business, that corporation to move forward. For example, imagine a solar developer in South Sudan who has a plan that could bring electricity to rural communities for the first time, but he can’t get the attention of large investors without an expensive environmental impact assessment, which he cannot afford. One of our new grants could provide enough support to pay for that assessment. Or think of an investor who wants to build a wind farm in Egypt, but won’t commit until he sees site assessments and land surveys. A grant could cover the cost and mean the difference between going forward or giving up.  

This new initiative is part of an across-the-board push by the United States to make clean energy and energy security cornerstones of our foreign policy. At the State Department, I’ve committed a new – I’ve created a new Bureau of Energy Resources, headed by Ambassador Carlos Pascual, who is here today, who works closely with our Environment Bureau, headed by Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, who is also here. And OPIC has scaled up investments in clean energy from 130 million to 1.1 billion. And I want to thank OPIC’s president, Elizabeth Littlefield, for her leadership. And she will be telling you more about it. 

This effort also reflects the United States commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, which seeks to give all people everywhere access to clean energy. Achieving this goal will require the investment of tens of billions of dollars a year over the next 20 years to extend our energy infrastructure.  

I want to say a word about my own country, because I think often times people believe that somehow all of this just happened in the United States or other places that have reliable power supplies. In my own country, it took government support, starting in the 1930s, to create institutions that would provide exactly the kind of incentives and guarantees to extend electricity into rural areas in the United States that we’re talking about for Africa. We did not finish electrifying the continental United States until, I think, the mid or late 1960s.  So it was a 30, 40-year project. But we stayed with it, and we kept fine tuning what was needed – rural electric co-ops and other kinds of incentives and guarantees.  

We want to bring that experience where you partner between government and the private sector to get the job done. And we are convinced that this will make a significant difference. We will contribute $2 billion in funds and authorities that Congress made available last year to support clean energy programs and projects in developing countries. And we believe this will leverage far more in private investment. Bank of America has announced it will invest $50 billion in clean energy over the next decade. And we expect other countries and institutions to follow suit. Over the next 20 years, electric power infrastructure will be a $10 trillion industry. Let’s make it a clean energy infrastructure that will be part of our sustainable energy and sustainable development goals coming from this conference.  

We can make this a reality. And by doing so, we can further our sustainability goals while also furthering economic opportunities and better lives for tens of millions of men, women, and children. We are very excited about this partnership, and we are particularly pleased and looking forward to partnering with our African partners. And I thank all the countries that are represented here, all the businesses that I hope will be stepping up and being part of this partnership. And I guess I would end by saying let’s get to work, and I believe we can get it done. 

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)    

PRN: 2012/T66-03