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2017 World Hydropower Congress opens in Addis Ababa

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, officially opened the congress telling delegates development was unthinkable in the absence of adequate and affordable energy

Access to modern and sustainable energy services is crucial to achieving sustainable, transformative and inclusive development

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 9, 2017/APO/ --

The 6th World Hydropower Congress (WHC) kicked-off in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today with Acting Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, calling on the continent to come up with strong and coherent policies to promote faster and more inclusive growth through the optimal use of hydropower and other sources of renewable energy.

Mr. Hamdok said with more than 600 million people in Africa living without access to electricity and households continuing to rely on traditional biomass for cooking, it was pertinent for Africa to tap into its vast renewable energy sources.

“With clear vision coupled with strong and coherent policy action to promote faster and more inclusive growth, the continent has the potential to take the lead in innovation, technologies and business models that utilise hydropower optimally and efficiently,” he said.

However, said Mr. Hamdok, it is equally important for the continent to guard against negative impacts of hydropower development and to pay close attention to climate resilience and social inclusion.

“This is mostly linked to growing concerns regarding hydropower sustainability, including the over-reliance on hydropower which could possibly compromise energy security in many countries, especially in the context of drought,” he said.

"I am glad to note that the agenda of this congress includes items of environmental and social impact in the context of hydropower development," added Mr. Hamdok.

He also said it is important to develop an integrated approach to the management of water for irrigation and energy production, adding the ECA and the AUC are working closely with key stakeholders on a number of initiatives to promote low carbon energy development as well as innovative financing regimes for clean energy infrastructure projects to support the implementation of both the global Sustainable Development Goals Agenda and the Africa Union’s Agenda 2063.

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, officially opened the congress telling delegates development was unthinkable in the absence of adequate and affordable energy.

He shared with delegates what Ethiopia is doing to advance the use of hydropower and renewable energy sources, adding Africa will not achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without universal access to electricity.

“I would like to reiterate the need for collective efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said as he emphasized the need for the world to pull together on this front.

Hydropower, the Prime Minister said, is crucial to providing reliable and sustainable energy development for transformation of Africa’s economies.

For his part, African Union Commission Deputy Chairperson, Quartey Thomas Kwesi, focused his speech on hydropower’s role in addressing Africa’s energy challenges and Africa’s regional plans in the energy sector, in particular hydropower plants, under the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

“Access to modern and sustainable energy services is crucial to achieving sustainable, transformative and inclusive development,” said Mr. Kwesi.

“The development and expansion of renewable energy provides one of the most effective strategies to simultaneously promote development, sustainable energy access and energy security as well as climate change mitigation at the global, continental and regional levels.”

Liu Zhenya, chairman of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), presented to the participants the concept of ‘global energy interconnection’ (GEI) as “the inevitable way out for clean and low-carbon energy transition”.

“It is imperative for us to accelerate the green and low-carbon transition. The key to realising that is to bring forward a new energy supply system prioritised by clean energy development and power supply with large-scale optimal allocation of the GEI platform,” he said.

“Let’s work hand in hand for African energy interconnections with more communication and common consent, and make our due contribution to sustainable development.”

Ken Adams, president of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) said hydropower cannot be done in isolation.

“My message today is that achieving Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without breaking barriers and widening the scope of collaboration between all of our institutions. We must embrace the fact that one single technology will not resolve the challenges of our generation,” he said.

“We need more hydropower on the grid, as it plays a role as a flexible, sustainable generation source. We also need it to play the often unrecognised role of energy storage.”

Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) and special representative of the UN secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All said: "Better Hydro is an important way to meet the goal of sustainable energy agreed by all countries and the ambition of the Paris climate agreement. It offers affordable, cleaner, reliable energy as well as storage which can crowd in more solar and wind development.

"The challenge of securing sustainable energy for all by 2030 means we have to move forward with speed and scale. We hope that the World Hydropower Congress will spur rapid progress."

The congress seeks to build on a previous meeting held in 2015 in Beijing by bringing together leaders and experts to examine how initiatives of governments, businesses, finance, civil society and academia can advance sustainable development.

Distributed by APO on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).