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Europe to cooperate with Africa on smart grids proposal

12 February 2010 – Smart grids and integrated systems that enable greater use of renewable energy based electricity in Africa are among the technologies proposed for a renewable energy cooperation between Africa and Europe.

Other areas, as listed in a draft concept note on a renewable energy cooperation program between the African Union and the European Union, include building design and energy efficient architecture that is appropriate for African climates, and renewable fuel production.

The note sets out a program to mobilize the technology expertise and innovation capacity of Europe to build expertise and capacity in Africa towards the development of the continent’s vast and largely untapped renewable potential, and at the same time to help build a significant new area for industrial trade and business cooperation between the two regions over the coming years.

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 regional levels, but there is scope for doing more.

So far only about 7 percent of Africa’s hydropower potential and 1 percent of its geothermal potential has been developed, and the continent also has considerable solar, wind and biomass potential.

The note says that Europe’s resource base, experience and innovation capacity provide an opportunity for Africa to learn and to adapt technology to suit its local requirements.  Some “leapfrogging” of technology may be possible, for example by investing in larger and more efficient wind turbines and advanced, decentralized generation of electricity.

The key proposed action areas for the program are to strengthen the renewable energy industry and markets in Africa, implement renewable energy policies and measures, facilitate grid integration of renewable energy, mobilize existing and new financial instruments to support renewable energy in Africa, undertake market focused renewable energy research, development and technology transfer, and implementation and communication.

The program is expected to run for 5 years

The concept note is still under discussion and is expected to be presented at a high level meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership in April. Thereafter in the second half of 2010 a full project document will be drawn up and presented to funders, from whom expressions of interest are currently being sought.