The world is experiencing an era of simultaneous declining hydrocarbon energy resources, coupled with an increased quest for more energy sources to meet industrial, transport and household demand, particularly from emerging markets, and growing awareness and concern about the impact of climate change. The rapid expansion of the use of renewable energy is an essential component of a global approach to reducing the threat of climate change, reducing vulnerability to energy price changes and to address energy security concerns. It also offers a forward-looking economic stimulus, through the prospects of the development of a new industrial sector, with corresponding economic and employment benefits.
The Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) reflects this shared interest and already comprises a number of specific actions and instruments that will expand the use of renewable energy, mobilise the technology expertise and innovation capacity of Europe to build expertise and capacity in Africa towards the development of the vast and largely untapped renewable potential, and help build a significant new area for industrial trade and business cooperation between Africa and Europe over the coming years.
Africa and Europe have much to gain from a joint approach to the development of renewable energy. On both continents, renewable energy plays an important role in energy supply. Both continents also share a commitment to a significant expansion of the contribution from renewable energy in the energy balance.
Recently, Africa and Europe reaffirmed their commitment to expanding the development of renewable energy during the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. A large share of IRENA’s currently 137 signatory states are from Europe (26%) and Africa (33%).
Globally, EU is a world leader in renewable energy and has a strong scientific and industrial base. Renewable energy is a key element in EU energy policies, both at the EU level and at the national level in many EU Member States. Some EU Member States actually have a substantial share of renewable energy in their energy balance. These include Sweden (40%), Finland (29%), Austria (23%) and Portugal (21%).Others like Germany and Denmark have made strong commitments (both targeting 30% by 2020) to expanding the share of RE in their economy in the next decade.
The share of renewable energy will grow substantially in future. The EU Renewable Energy Directive, adopted in December 2008, commits the EU to a binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, which is more than a doubling of the current level. For all member states, this means a substantial increase in their national commitment. Apart from the contributions to improved energy security and climate change mitigation, the Directive sees renewable energy as important for the development of a knowledge-based industry in Europe, creating jobs, economic growth, and competitiveness as well as for regional and local development opportunities, rural development, export prospects, social cohesion and employment opportunities.
A similar scope exists for Africa. Africa covers a substantial share of its energy supply from renewable energy, notably traditional biomass (predominantly woodfuels), which accounts for 70-90% of primary energy supply of some SSA countries, and hydropower, which accounts for 45% of electricity generation in SSA. The use of biomass in open cooking fires, combined with deforestation from land clearance for agriculture, can lead to local fuel supply shortages, and the smoke is a source of many health problems; so the sustainability of biomass supply needs attention, as well as the introduction of improved cooking and heating appliances. Furthermore, only a small fraction of Africa’s vast renewable energy potential is utilized - 7% of the hydro and 1% of the geothermal potential. The hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy sources could easily cover all the continent’s current energy needs.
Some African countries already cover a substantial share of their energy balance from renewable energy, such as Kenya (81%) and Senegal (40%). Several African counties, such as South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Cap Verde and Mali have adopted national targets for renewable energy, and feed-in tariffs for renewable energy electricity have been introduced e.g. in South Africa and Kenya.
At the continental level, Africa has made several political commitments to increase the utilization of renewable energy. In April 2008, participants in the International Conference on Renewable Energy in Africa agreed on a vision to scale up renewable energy development in Africa to enhance wider access to modern energy, strengthen the continent’s energy security as well as support its industrialization and socio-economic development. The Conference also adopted a Plan of Action for Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Africa.
In February 2009, the AU Summit welcomed the Africa-European Union Infrastructure and Energy Partnerships, and committed to undertake to develop renewable energy resources in order to provide clean, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy.
Important African institutions, such as the African Development Bank stress that African countries, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa, need to make greater use of their huge, largely untapped renewable energy potential – especially hydropower, geothermal energy, solar and wind power, and more efficient utilisation of biomass. Even though the current level of investment is low, things are moving. NEPAD I-STAP has included several large hydropower investments among its priority projects. AfDB’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and other AfDB programmes, are in the process of identifying priority investment projects in renewable energy, which also include small and medium scale hydro and biomass co-generation.
Countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania are developing wind farms. Geothermal investments are increasing in the Rift Valley area of Eastern Africa. The pipeline of investments in Africa in hydropower, wind farms, solar PV and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation, geothermal power and biofuels confirms the potential for a future expansion of the use of renewable energy.
The significant renewable energy potential of both continents and the shared commitment to an increased use of renewable energy in Africa and in Europe provides a good basis for a much more intensive cooperation on renewable energy.
The current cooperation on renewable energy comprises a number of bilateral projects and programs, typically addressing capacity building, enabling frameworks and demonstrations at the national and the regional level, and a number of investments co-financed by development banks and private companies. This includes the renewable energy investments supported by e.g. the Infrastructure Trust Fund, the Energy Facility, bilateral instruments and the European Development Finance Institutions.
The scope for renewable energy cooperation between Africa and Europe covers a wide menu of technical options, which can operate at the regional, national and local level, and covers large, medium and small-scale technologies. More specifically, the menu of technologies includes:
•Electricity generation from renewable energy, including hybrid generation and embedded generation, from solar (including Concentrated Solar Power) , water (rivers, tidal, waves), wind (including wind farms), biomass (including co-generation of electricity and heat, biogas etc.) and geothermal.
•Renewable fuel production and use: Solid, liquid and gaseous (including briquettes, ethanol, plant oil, methane and hydrogen) from renewable resources, including from biomass wastes and landfills.
•Renewable energy for heating and cooling, including sustainable and more efficient use of woodfuels, solar water heating/air conditioning.
•Improved active and passive building design and energy efficient architecture that is more appropriate to African climates.
•Integrated systems and smart grids that enable greater use of renewable-energy based electricity.
The European resource base, experience and innovation capacity provide an opportunity for Africa to learn, and to adapt technology to suit Africa’s own requirements. Some “leapfrogging” of technology may be possible. For example investing in larger and more efficient wind turbines for grid-connected wind farm and advanced, decentralised generation of electricity and heat from biomass, which is increasingly common in Europe.
Within the overall framework of the AEEP, there is scope for the programme to demonstrate stronger political commitment and provide a clearer profile and direction of the renewable energy cooperation between Europe and Africa.
The programme offers a framework for doing more, by providing a better overview, more knowledge about renewable energy resources and options, and by identifying cooperation possibilities that are presently not well developed. In particular, the programme works for a much stronger involvement of the private sector in both continents. The programme will address the financing gap between public resources and actual needs, in order to bring on board and mobilize resources from financial institutions and the private sector.
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