Last Wednesday, June 22nd, the European Energy Network, in a joint organisation with the European Commission, promoted a high-level EU-Africa policy-makers roundtable on energy transition. The meeting was held in Brussels, within #aef22, the Africa Energy Forum and brought together high-level government officials from Africa countries, business sector associations, NGOs, financing institutions and relevant international stakeholders, together the European Energy Network and the European Commission, with Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans from the European Commission.
Nelson Lage, President of ADENE and EnR for the year 2022 spoke at the opening session about the EU and Africa relationship, stating that: “On the path of sustainable energy growth, which will enable us to achieve the zero emissions target by 2050, we cannot leave anyone behind, and we have the responsibility and obligation to keep the ambition alive towards the Paris Agreement’s targets and to look at COP27 with greater interest and commitment to act.”.
More than ever, it is urgent to join forces and make the European Union and the African continent independent from Russia’s fossil fuels, and this goal can only be achieved by working together to defend clean, reliable and cheaper energies.
Nelson Lage, President of EnR
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission stressed that investment in renewable energy is the most sustainable and cheapest way to ensure access to clean energy for all, provided they have the necessary technologies. However, it is important to accelerate the transition from signing collaboration agreements to signing investment contracts; moving from pilot projects to transformative projects.
Developing renewable energy in the African continent is not only important for Africa but also for Europe. There is a need to secure the link between the priorities of the European Union and Africa, because we are dependent of a global effort for the energy transition. On the other hand, a more concrete and pragmatic approach should be followed, since investments in African countries must correspond to country-specific opportunities and interests. However, if for example, we do not embrace the opportunities that hydrogen or renewables offer, i.e. if we do not invest now, we lose the momentum because other countries and regions in the world are already moving very quickly.
Ministers or high-level government officials from 13 African countries present referred to the strategies, policies and investments underway or planned. Standing out, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mauritania, showcased their ambitious initiatives.
On the one hand, Osvaldo Abreu, Minister of Infrastructure & Natural Resources of São Tomé and Príncipe, a Net-Zero country, called for European solidarity, given the vulnerability of small island states, the challenges they face in tackling climate change and the difficulties in attracting investment to small economies.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, represented by the Head of State Mission of the Agency for the Development & Promotion of the Grand Inga Project (ADPI-RDC), Bruno Kapandji, has pointed to its position at COP26 as a “solution country” due to high mining capacity and forestry levels, and the high availability of raw critical material resources for the energy transition, to the point of being the “world capital of batteries”. The country, in which only 20% of the population has access to energy, stressed that it has everything to electrify its own economy and perhaps even the entire continent, provided that Europe is ready to do so.
Abdesselam Ould Mohamed Saleh, Minister of Petroleum, Mines & Energy from Mauritania focused on the need to jointly address poverty and climate change, as the energy poverty gap is at the heart of Africa’s development. Renewable energy and green hydrogen can be a solution to climate change, but also accelerate the fight against poverty. This critical societal transformation will be based on sustainable renewable energy instead of increasing emissions by relying on natural gas reserves.
Representatives of financial institutions, notably the International Finance Corporation (World Bank Group), African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, highlighted collective responsibility and the need to address the entire energy supply & value chains. A focus was given to energy grid investments to make full use of renewable energy potential. To create enabling conditions for a successful energy transition, public capital has to be directed towards grid investments or new energy technologies, as well to as leverage private capital. Only a fair and inclusive transition, without winners or losers, will achieve global objectives. This means exploring all types of suppliers and fostering resilience and autonomy of investments. The European Commission has given a note of the funds available to improve the design of investment projects, totaling EUR 3.5 trillion over the next 5 years.
Several stakeholders mentioned the importance of a collaborative effort not to regard Africa as a poor continent from a sustainability point of view. There is no correlation between energy poverty that characterizes Africa today and any kind of poor performance. So it is pivotal to go beyond “just” access to energy, and address the productive use of energy, the affordable cost of energy and the reliability of grids, very important points for Africa. It’s not just the issue of having mere access, it’s the quality of access provided that matters.
The energy transition will be different in different countries. In Africa most countries currently have low levels of emissions and Africa as a whole has a low contribution to the global level of emissions). So, for Africa the transition is more associated with avoided emissions from the energy consumption increase that occurs with development. The same solution cannot be applied to all countries and the energy transition in Africa must be unique. The solutions have to be defined and brought about by the different countries, with specific national plans that work towards fair energy transition and the identification of the best financing solutions.
The session conclusions were delivered by Kandeh Yumkella, Co-chair of the Africa Europe Foundation Strategy Group on Sustainable Energy and moderator of the session.
Carlos Zorrinho, Chair of the European Parliament delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, closed the session, focusing on Africa’s role in the challenges of the energy transition.
“In the future, Africa could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the clean energy transition. Africa could contribute to reducing emissions worldwide and benefit from the dynamics of the global energy transition.”
Carlos Zorrinho, MEP
The European Energy Network agencies are devoting 2022, under the Presidency of ADENE (Portugal) to global energy cooperation, sharing good practices & fostering synergies, namely between Europe & Africa. Attending the event were Nelson Lage (President), Luís Silva (Director, Cooperation & Institutional Affairs), Inês Mendes(Head of EnR Secretariat), from ADENE (Portuguese Energy Agency); Philippe Masset (Director, Europe & International) from ADEME (French Agency for Ecological Transition); Marian Poolen (Manager Energy Innovation) from RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency); and Emilie Carmichael (Head of International Collaboration) from the Energy Saving Trust (United Kingdom).