Report on VENRO International Workshop on IRENA and the Africa-EU Energy Partnership

VENRO website. Overcoming energy poverty is a pre-condition for development. Therefore the role of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Africa-EU-Energy Partnership (AEEP) in combating poverty should be strengthened. This is the conclusion reached by an international workshop on renewable energy in Africa, held in Berlin on June 14 2010, and hosted by VENRO, the Forum on Environment and Development and the Church Development Service (Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst – EED).

Access to sustainable energy is a key strategy in the fight against poverty. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Africa-EU-Energy Partnership (AEEP) are institutions which wish to promote the use of renewable energy sources in Africa.
Yet their approaches differ substantially. Whilst the AEEP concentrates on political dialogue, the IRENA dedicates itself to building a systematic network of experts capable of transferring technical know-how. Right from the start of the meeting “New Dynamics for Renewable Energies in Africa – IRENA and the Africa-EU-Energy Partnership”, Hein Winnubst, Co-Chair of the AEEP and Mika Ohbayashi from IRENA, left no doubt about the differences in these two approaches.

During the first panel on the role of these two organisations in advancing renewable energy, Wolfgang Moser from the Austrian foreign ministry and Mika Ohbayashi from IRENA spoke with representatives from African and European civil society. Austria and Germany co-chair the AEEP. Ibrahim Togola, director of the West African environmental organisation Mali Folkecenter and Jürgen Maier from the Forum on Environment and Development, represented civil society. Jürgen Maier called for an effort by both organisations to publicise their work more, and to make a systematic attempt to open up to participation by civil society.
All of the participants agreed that a progressive and sustainable energy policy must be based on participation and democracy.

The central issues discussed in the afternoon, were the strategic concepts needed to improve Africa’s energy supply. Christian Ruck from the CDU/CSU faction, Jean-Kuc Ekwa from the Congolese NGO Church of Christ (ECC), Claudia Hanisch from Deutsche Solar AG and Hans Peter Zerfas from World Vision Germany all put forward their positions. A main point of criticism was the fact that European and African governments’ efforts have up until now been focussed on large infrastructure projects and on ensuring the supply of energy to African cities.

IRENA and the Africa-EU-Energy Partnership could or even should jointly develop strategies for Africa that encourage the use of renewable energy, because human development and successes in the fight against poverty, and this is especially the case in rural areas, rely on  access to affordable renewable energy.

The results of the workshop will be documented and published shortly.

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