Plans to boost Africa’s wind energy production

Africa could experience a major boost in its renewable energy generation capacity in the next 10 years if a recent energy deal with Europe is fully implemented. More than 15,000 MW are planned.

According to a joint energy plan reached at the recent 1st High Level meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), the two continents agreed to build 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new hydropower plants in Africa by 2020.

This is in addition to at least 5,000 MW of wind power and 500 MW of all forms of solar power capacity expected to be commissioned in the same period.

If achieved, the plan would bring access to modern and sustainable energy services to at least an additional 100 million people in Africa. The continent has a target to reach an additional 250 million people by 2020. The EU-African initiative would therefore benefit at least 40 percent of the continent’s target.

"Africa and the EU will take joint action to increase both energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in Africa by building 10,000 MW of new hydropower facilities taking into consideration social and environmental standards," AEEP said in a statement.

AEEP said plans are also underway to triple "the capacity of other renewables such as geothermal and modern biomass" in Africa.

This will be part of the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme launched at the meeting. The programme aims among other things to encourage the uptake of renewable energy. Africa is vast with renewable energy sources, which if fully harnessed have the capacity to address all the energy needs in the continent.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) notes that sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to provide more than 170 gigawatts (GW) of additional power-generation capacity – more than double the sub-region’s current installation – through 3,200 "low-carbon" energy projects such as solar and wind power.

Low-carbon energy projects that produce less pollutant are fast emerging as the most lucrative source of financing under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The CDM allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement emission reduction projects in developing countries. It also enables developing countries to increase energy access while limiting greenhouse gas emissions through harnessing clean energy sources.

However, available data show that Africa has benefited the least among all continents from the US$ 7 billion annual CDM market, with only about 71 of the 2,156 projects having been registered in Africa.

The signing of the energy deal between Africa and the EU is thus expected to see more CDM projects being exploited in the continent.

AEEP also said joint efforts to improve energy security would be undertaken to ensure sustainable development in both continents. "We will double the capacity of cross border electricity interconnections, both within Africa and between Africa and Europe, thus increasing trade in electricity while ensuring adequate levels of generation capacity."

AEEP said it would also double "the use of natural gas in Africa as well as double African gas exports to Europe, by building gas infrastructure."

The Africa–EU partnership added that the energy targets set at the meeting would be reviewed and updated periodically in light of the new political developments and joint agreements between the two continents. "The AEEP roadmap is endorsed as a living document for implementation of the AEEP," the joint statement said.

Africa and Europe launched AEEP after the Europe-Africa Summit of Heads of state and government held in Portugal in December 2007. AEEP is already said to have played a notable role in strengthening cooperation between Africa and the EU in the energy sector.

Such cooperation includes increased financial support through the European Development Fund and the EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility to support African countries to improve the business climate for energy investment.

The first high level AEEP meeting was held in Vienna, Austria, on 14-15 September. AEEP is one of the eight strategic partnerships launched by Africa and the EU to boost mutual cooperation between the two continents.

Other partnerships focus on climate change, peace and security, infrastructure, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and regional trade and integration.

Policy makers from the commissions of the AU and EU, ministers responsible for energy, representatives of regional economic communities as well as business and civil society representatives took part in the meeting.