ORNL’s first USAID project was in Liberia, 1982-85, helping the country develop its first national energy plan and develop a governmental structure to implement it.   The project began with a national energy policy assessment in Liberia, 1982-83, which led to major national initiatives (just one of which saved the equivalent of 2 percent of GDP and reduced oil product prices by one-third) and to the adoption of a national energy plan in 1985. When the project was completed in 1985, the USAID Mission Director said that it represented the biggest payoff per dollar invested of any single project in the Agency's history.

ORNL continued to be very active in energy program assistance in Africa until USAID reduced its programmatic support to that region in the early 1990s.  Over that period, the Laboratory worked in ten African countries; we still maintain linkages with regional experts, and we are considered an authority on energy strategy issues in Africa:  e.g., invited participation in a special symposium on energy in Africa, AAAS, February 1994, and an invited contribution to the 1994 Yearbook on African Development Perspectives, 1994 (Bremen).  Examples of ORNL projects in Africa have included distributed energy system development and water pumping technology assessments in South Africa, improved cookstove technology transfer in Kenya, and wood plantation waste briquetting in Madagascar as a substitute for commercial wood charcoal production associated with deforestation.  One of our recent hires at ORNL is a Nigerian-born regional economist with a PhD from Penn State, a very bright and productive young professional.

Since 2004, ORNL has assisted USAID in organizing and managing a project in Southern Africa to support improved environmental management in shared river basins.