The US government has launched a new initiative aimed at progressing development in Africa through the provision of clean energy.

The US-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative will be funded with $20 million by the US government and is part of a drive to make “clean energy and energy security cornerstones” of US foreign policy, said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the Rio Earth Summit in June.

The initiative will be overseen by the US State Department, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) and the US Trade and Development Agency. Its aim is to stimulate private sector investment in Africa’s clean energy sector and improve access to energy for the continent’s population.

According to OPIC, African households’ lack of access to energy is a major barrier to development. While Africa has abundant clean energy resources – in particular solar and geothermal – project development is held up by costs and a lack of support for financing.

The initiative will “open the doors for hundreds of millions of more dollars from the private sector for projects that would never come to fruition otherwise, OPIC said in a statement on its website.