Energy security through partnership

Africa and EU in Partnership official website. Energy access and security that does not cause undue damage to the environment or the climate are at the core of development, with new and innovative ways needed to safeguard our energy future. This is what the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) aims to help achieve.

Ministers and high-ranking officials from the EU and Africa were due to meet in Vienna, Austria, to discuss the Africa-EU Energy Partnership launched in 2008. In parallel, the Global Forum on Sustainable Energy was going to bring together African and EU stakeholders to come up with innovative solutions to address sustainable energy issues on both continents. However, due to volcanic ash disrupting air travel in Europe, the meeting has been postponed.

The AEEP is an increasingly important element of the wider global struggle to combat climate change, while ensuring energy access and energy security. Indeed, it reinforces the energy links between Africa and Europe. The political dialogue that has been established by the partnership on energy issues is prevalent at the local, national, regional, continental and, indeed, the global levels.

Through ensuring access to sustainable energy, Africa and Europe will be able to foster economic development by using efficient and renewable energy systems which benefit the environment. In addition, access to energy will help power social services, thus contributing to social progress.

According to the Energy Partnerships’ Joint Expert Group meeting in Cairo, Egypt, in February 2010, the targets to be achieved by Africa by 2020 are ambitious:

– Opening up access to sustainable energy sources for an additional 100 million Africans;

– Doubling the capacity of cross-border electricity interconnections, both within Africa and between Africa and Europe;

– Doubling the use of natural gas in Africa, and doubling the export of natural gas from Africa to Europe;

– Increasing the use of renewable energy sources, as well as promoting energy efficiency through building renewable energy power plants.

Investing in the future

Both the African and European sides want to increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services. The development of infrastructure as a cross-cutting priority across the eight partnerships needs increased European and African investment to achieve the objectives of the energy partnership. Thus, through sharing a network of energy infrastructure in a region (such as a gas or oil pipeline), Africa can expand energy services in a cost-effective fashion, while ensuring energy security. Indeed, Africa is already achieving this objective through the establishment of so-called regional power pools, thereby making sure energy is accessible for growing demand.

Bold targets have been set by a number of regional communities within Africa to achieve access to electricity by 2015: 66% of the population in West Africa, 50% in Central Africa and 100% for urban areas and public services in rural areas in East Africa.

Diversification

Harnessing locally available energy resources will be crucial to securing Africa’s growing energy needs, especially renewable energy sources which are impervious to volatile market influences on prices of traditional fossil fuels.
An example of the massive renewable energy potential in Africa currently lying unused is hydro power – where only 7% is being utilised – and geothermal energy – where an astonishingly low 1% is being exploited. The EU is currently financing construction projects for power plants in both of these sectors. Solar power is an obvious renewable energy source in sun-rich Africa, and is already being utilised in North Africa, with plans to export solar-generated power to Europe through the Mediterranean Solar Plan.

In this context, the AEEP will launch the Renewable Energy Co-operation Programme in the second half of 2010, which will initially run until 2020 and look to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Gas problems

Natural gas is one of the cleanest energy resources available, yet 50 billion cubic metres are lost each year in Africa due to the lack of infrastructure to capture it. Through the AEEP, Africa and the EU will work together to reduce this waste and capture it for use and export by Africa. An example of the co-operation is already evident in Algeria, where the Medgaz gas pipeline currently under construction will transport some 8 billion cubic metres of gas to Spain.

Facilitating private investment

In order to meet African energy needs, substantial private capital must be attracted to secure private energy sector investment. The EU is working to ensure that links between the private sector in Europe and Africa are strengthened, as well as smoothing the way for European private capital into Africa.

Along with private capital investment must come human and institutional investment. A good example of this already happening is in Cairo, where the Regional Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency is drawing up policies in support of renewable energy.

The challenges ahead

There is a long road ahead with many challenges along the way. In an effort to build up infrastructure capacity in Africa, the continent needs to establish legal, fiscal and regulatory frameworks at the national, regional and continental levels to facilitate the smooth running of energy networks. This could be helped through the establishment of ‘twinning’ European and African institutions to enable knowledge transfer and the sharing of good practice. The use of public-private partnerships will also be explored in the energy partnership as an innovative financing method.

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