We conservatively estimate that more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.
There has been a general bias toward using OPIC to invest principally in solar, wind, and other low-emissions energy projects as part of the administration’s effort to promote clean energy technology. An explicit policy capping the total greenhouse gas emissions in OPIC’s overall portfolio has further pushed the organization’s investments heavily toward renewables. Indeed, over the past five years, OPIC has invested in more than 40 new energy projects and all but two (in Jordan and Togo) are in renewables.
The 2014 omnibus appropriations legislation lifts the greenhouse gas restriction on OPIC’s portfolio for projects in low-income countries for the current fiscal year, but the medium-term policy is under debate. Congress will also likely consider a version of the Electrify Africa Act again in 2014. Meanwhile, many African countries have significant natural gas deposits and have declared their desire to utilize that resource for domestic power generation. Of the six countries in Power Africa, four are already producing or developing natural gas and two are exploring its use.