Africa-EU renewable energy cooperation programme

1. Introduction

Africa and Europe have shared interests in an accelerated use of renewable energy resources. For both continents, renewable energy reduces dependency on fossil fuels, contributes to improved energy security and access, and is the backbone of a future low-carbon energy system. The Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) reflects this shared interest and already comprises a number of specific actions and instruments that will expand the use of renewable energy. In order to give additional visibility and momentum to this, the joint statement between the African Commission and the European Commission, September 2008 suggests the establishment of a joint renewable energy cooperation program. The launching and implementation of the renewable energy cooperation program was further endorsed in the AEEP Action Plan and Road Map

The programme, which will build on existing joint activities and initiate new ones, could mobilise the technology expertise and innovation capacity of Europe to build expertise and capacity in Africa towards the development of the vast and largely untapped renewable potential, and at the same time help build a significant new area for industrial trade and business cooperation between Africa and Europe over the coming years. The current draft AEEP Road Map outlines a process, in which consultations on the cooperation program with EU and African partners will take place during 2010 with a view to a launch early 2011. This note provides an outline of a possible Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme, as a first basis for discussion among the African and European partners.

2. Context

The world is experiencing an era of simultaneous declining hydrocarbon energy resources, coupled with an increased quest for more energy sources to meet industrial, transport and household demand, particularly from emerging markets, and growing awareness and concern about the impact of climate change. The rapid expansion of the use of renewable energy is an essential component of a global approach to reducing the threat of climate change, to reducing vulnerability to energy price changes and to address energy security concerns. It also offers a forward-looking economic stimulus, through the prospects of the development of a new industrial sector, with corresponding economic and employment benefits.

Africa and Europe have much to gain from a joint approach to the development of renewable energy. On both continents, renewable energy already plays an important role in energy supply, and both continents share a commitment to a significant expansion of the contribution from renewable energy in the energy balance. Recently, Africa and Europe reaffirmed their commitment to expanding the development of renewable energy during the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. A large share of IRENA's currently 137 signatory states are from Europe (26%) and Africa (33%).

Globally, EU stands out as a world leader in renewable energy, with a strong scientific and industrial base. Renewable energy is a key element in EU energy policies, both at the EU level and at the national level in many EU Member States. Some MS actually have a substantial share of RE in their energy balance. This includes e.g. Sweden (40%), Finland (29%), Austria (23%) and Portugal (21%)1, while others like Germany and Denmark have made strong commitments (both targeting 30% by 2020) to expanding the share of RE in their economy in the next decade.

The share of renewable energy will grow substantially in the future. The EU Renewable Energy Directive2, adopted in December 2008, commits the EU to a binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, which is more than a doubling of the current level. For all member states, this means a substantial increase in their national commitment. Apart from the contributions to improved energy security and climate change mitigation, the Directive sees renewable energy as important for the development of a knowledge-based industry in Europe, creating jobs, economic growth, and competitiveness as well as for regional and local development opportunities, rural development, export prospects, social cohesion and employment opportunities. A similar scope exists for Africa.

Africa covers a substantial share of its energy supply from renewable energy, notably traditional biomass (predominantly woodfuels), which accounts for 70-90% of primary energy supply of some SSA countries, and hydropower, which accounts for 45% of electricity generation in SSA. The use of biomass in open cooking fires, combined with deforestation from land clearance for agriculture, can lead to local fuel supply shortages, and the smoke is a source of many health problems; so the sustainability of biomass supply needs attention, as well as the introduction of improved cooking and heating appliances. Furthermore, only a small fraction of Africa's vast renewable energy potential is utilized - 7% of the hydro and 1% of the geothermal potential. The hydro, solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy sources could easily cover all the continent's current energy needs.

Some African countries already cover a substantial share of their energy balance from renewable energy, such as Kenya (81%) and Senegal (40%)3. Several African counties, such as South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Cap Verde and Mali have adopted national targets for renewable energy, and feed-in tariffs for renewable energy electricity have been introduced e.g. in South Africa and Kenya. Also at the continental level, Africa has made several political commitments to increase the utilization of renewable energy. In April 2008, participants in the International Conference on Renewable Energy in Africa4 agreed on a vision to scale up renewable energy development in Africa to enhance wider access to modern energy, strengthen the continent's energy security as well as support its industrialization and socio-economic development. The Conference also adopted a Plan of Action for Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Africa. In February 2009, the AU Summit welcomed the Africa-European Union Infrastructure and Energy Partnerships, and committed to undertake to develop renewable energy resources in order to provide clean, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy5.

Important African institutions, such as the African Development Bank6, stress that African countries, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa, need to make greater use of their huge, largely untapped renewable energy potential - especially hydropower, geothermal energy, solar and wind power, and more efficient utilisation of biomass. Even though the current level of investment is low7, things are moving. NEPAD I-STAP has included several large hydropower investments among its priority projects. AfDB's Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and other AfDB programmes, are in the process of identifying priority investment projects in renewable energy, which also include small and medium scale hydro and biomass co-generation.

Countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania are developing wind farms. Geothermal investments are increasing in the Rift Valley area of Eastern Africa. The pipeline of investments in Africa in hydropower, wind farms, solar PV and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation, geothermal power and biofuels confirms the potential for a future expansion of the use of renewable energy.

3. Scope

The significant renewable energy potential of both continents and the shared commitment to an increased use of renewable energy in Africa and in Europe provides a good basis for a much more intensive cooperation on renewable energy. Africa and Europe already cooperate on renewable energy, e.g. through a number of EU financial instruments and bilateral cooperation programs, and through (still limited) private investments. The Africa-EU renewable energy cooperation programme will provide a stimulating framework and give further direction and momentum to this.

The 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 the regional level, and a number of investments co-financed by development banks and private companies. This includes the renewable energy investments supported by e.g. the Infrastructure Trust Fund, the Energy Facility, bilateral instruments and the European Development Finance Institutions. While the different actions are relevant in their own right, there is a large scope for doing more. The scope for renewable energy cooperation between Africa and Europe covers a wide menu of technical options, which can operate at the regional, national and local level, and covers large, medium and small-scale technologies. More specifically, the menu of technologies includes:

  • Electricity generation from renewable energy, including hybrid generation and embedded generation, from solar (including Concentrated Solar Power) , water (rivers, tidal, waves), wind (including wind farms) , biomass (including co-generation of electricity and heat, biogas etc.) and geothermal. The electricity can supply regional, national and local grids, as well as operate in mini-grids and off-grid systems.
  • Renewable fuel production and use: Solid, liquid and gaseous (including briquettes, ethanol, plant oil, methane and hydrogen) from renewable resources, including from biomass wastes and landfills. Apart from electricity generation, the fuels can be used for transportation and process heat.
  • Renewable energy for heating and cooling, including sustainable and more efficient use of woodfuels, solar water heating/air conditioning.
  • Improved active and passive building design and energy efficient architecture that is more appropriate to African climates.
  • Integrated systems and smart grids that enable greater use of renewable-energy based electricity.

The European resource base, experience and innovation capacity provide an opportunity for Africa to learn, and to adapt technology to suit Africa's own requirements. Some "leapfrogging" of technology may be possible. For example investing in larger and more efficient wind turbines for grid-connected wind farm and advanced, decentralised generation of electricity and heat from biomass, which is increasingly common in Europe. Within the overall framework of the AEEP, there is scope for the programme to demonstrate stronger political commitment and provide a clearer profile and direction of the renewable energy cooperation between Europe and Africa.

The programme offers a framework for doing more, by providing a better overview, more knowledge about renewable energy resources and options, and by identifying cooperation possibilities that are presently not well developed. In particular, the programme works for a much stronger involvement of the private sector in both continents. The programme will address the financing gap between public resources and actual needs, in order to bring on board and mobilize resources from financial institutions and the private sector. More specifically, the programme adds value and additional momentum to the cooperation on renewable energy by providing:

  • Facilitation of dialogue and cooperation between the private sectors on both continents on energy service provision from renewable energy, contributing to joint ventures, technology transfer, joint investments etc.,
  • Identification and promotion of effective policies and measures to increase the share of renewable energy in Africa's energy balance, nationally, regionally and at the continental level, which is required to increase investment levels,
  • Scientific and technical knowledge and more efficient cooperation on renewable energy potential, technical options and solutions in Africa, as a much needed basis for decision makers, investors and planners. This includes cooperation on both mature and emerging technologies,
  • A better overview of existing and planned renewable energy activities in Africa, which is necessary to identify new options and gaps that require attention.
  • Increased visibility, public awareness and public support on the scope and potential for renewable energy in Africa, leading to more political attention and increased public and private investments

The programme will explore and develop collaboration with the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, which will have a strong focus on policy advice, appropriate framework conditions, capacity building, knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

4. Programme objective

To promote greater use of renewable energy in Africa for improved energy security and energy access. The programme will stimulate an expanded cooperation between European and African actors at all levels. It will mobilise the technology expertise and innovation capacity of Europe in order to build the expertise and capacity in Africa that is required for the development of Africa's vast and untapped renewable energy potential, and to build a new industrial sector in Africa over the coming years. It expects to bring benefits of economic growth, employment, energy security and improved energy access, as well as paving the way for a future low-carbon energy system in Africa. The programme will provide a comprehensive, focused and operational framework for renewable energy cooperation between Europe and Africa in the context of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership. It will build on, complement and add momentum to existing activities and instruments.

The program will have a core budget of € xx m covering a 5-year period. For better visibility, coherence and coordination, it is suggested to apply a model of basket funding, where donors and other funders would contribute to a common pool. A call for proposals model could be considered for some of the actions, also to mobilise additional funding. Supplementary direct funding could be channelled to specific actions in the program.

Financing for the program will be sourced from e.g.

  • Energy Facility
  • European Research and Technology Development 7th Framework Programme.
  • EduLink programme of the EU funds Higher Education links between European and ACP institutions
  • EU Member States
  • Private foundations/charities (e.g. CSR-related)
  • Other support (including in-kind, know-how etc.) could be mobilised from e.g.
  • European Energy Agencies
  • Utilities
  • Private sector

5. Organization and institutions

A suitable institution or organization will be identified to manage and coordinate the programme. This institution will also have the responsibility increase the visibility of the EU-Africa renewable energy cooperation activities, outcomes and impacts. The program will be governed by a small AU/EU steering group. A wider group of stakeholders, including from private sector and NGOs, will be involved through the AEEP consultative process.

The Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme is an integrated part of the AEEP, and is thus an open-ended framework for cooperation that follows the time cycles of AEEP, including reporting requirements. The first phase of the programme will cover a 5-year period. Given the need for a long term commitment to this area, continued support beyond the first period should be envisaged and planned for during the first phase. The different actions in the programme may have their own individual timeframe. The program manager will report to AEEP on its progress and achievements. Each specific activity may have its own individual monitoring and reporting procedures. Apart from the African and European partners in the AEEP, and the institutions involved in direct activities, the programme will interact with and supplement activities of IRENA and other international organizations and institutions such as WB, IFC, UNDP, UNIDO, UNEP, IEA, REN 21, networks such as GNESD, GVEP and REEEP, and programs such as ESMAP.


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1Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. (COM(2008) 19 final).

2As above. In the directive, energy from renewable sources means renewable non-fossil energy sources: wind, solar, geothermal, wave, tidal, hydropower, biomass, landfill gas, sewage treatment plant gas and biogases.

3Renewables 2007 Global Status Report. REN 21. P. 40, table R7: Share of primary energy from renewables.

4 The International Conference on Renewable Energy in Africa jointly organised by the Government of Senegal, the African Union, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) was held in Dakar, Senegal, April 2008, to discuss the potential to scale up renewable energy in Africa.

5 AU Declaration on Development of Transport and Energy Infrastructure in Africa, Doc. Assembly/AU/9 (XII). 2009.

6Clean Energy Investment Framework for Africa. AfDB 2008.

7Together with the Middle East, Africa received only 2.8 % of global investments in sustainable energy in 2008. Source: Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2009. New Energy Finance, UNEP and SEFI 2009.


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