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Renewable Energy: EU – AU Perspective And Lessons Learned

Accelerating Green and accessing green energy is the talk of the day in the EU especially with solar energy also known as the clean energy source. The government, individuals, and giant solar investors and companies are all interested in projects that promote renewable energy sources. Projects that can benefit two continents like Europe and Africa and cut across different sectors are of top priority.

There are five major different sources of energy in the world that can benefit both humans and the planet. These include wind, biomass, hydropower, geothermal and solar energy. Solar energy is considered the cheapest and clean energy. Solar energy according to the EU “is energy derived from the sun. It can be used to produce electricity or heat.”  So, it is a technology that can convert the energy from the sun into heat or electricity. The EU has encouraged its citizens to come up with innovative ideas on this topic for funding like the case of Horizon 2020 in relation to the EU Green Deal proposal (tender closed at the moment). Such projects according to CBI, want a sustainable EU economy and climate-neutral by 2050. Similar projects can be seen in individual EU countries like the Netherlands for provinces, like the case of “ProjectIdee OP Oost, Gelderlander”

Such projects range from climate change, sustainability, innovation, and projects that cover all the SDGs goals in a nutshell with a particular focus on innovation. At times such projects can have even more benefits that cut across sectors (like the case of solar and agriculture) or have a Blockchain technology that ensures trust and transparency of the product or service, thereby making farming with technology more attractive and beneficial to locals and consumers. In the end, most people are eating better and improving on nutritious food habits with the help of solar tech.

The EU is the leading continent supporting and investing in clean renewable energy projects because it is the major source of power like the case of the Netherlands and its windmills, and a smart way of fighting climate change. The importance of investing in green tech cannot be better reiterated as did the former prime Minister of the United Kingdom, His excellence David Cameron in these words “Investing in local, green energy can reduce poverty and increase stability, for those in the most fragile states and for us all.”

Hearing the importance of green energy from the Prime Minister, the story about solar energy investment in Africa could not be much different.  Africa is blessed with abundant and untapped potentials like sunshine which is ideal to meet Africa’s electricity shortage problem. 2/5 of the continent is made up of the desert which accounts for constant sunshine. Again about 60,000,000 TWh/year is estimated as the continent reserves for its solar energy which is estimated to generate about 40% of the global total energy in the world. This put the continent the most sunshine continent in the world. The economic opportunity that can be deserved from this is enormous. However, when it comes to investment in solar energy in Africa, according to a report published by Oil Change International (OCI) in July 2018 “Nearly 60 percent of public finance for energy in Africa went to fossil fuels – an annual average of USD 11.7 billion”  and only 18% went to clean energy sources like solar. So why is it that electricity cost in Africa is still expensive compared to other countries in the world whereas the continent is the most sunshine in the world? Why is an investment in solar still an issue despite the fact that it is cheaper, free, and in abundance but more in biomass and fossil fuels? Why is Africa not the monopsony of solar energy commerce? What can Africa learn from the EU solar projects initiative?

According to Mark Hankins, the high cost of electricity in Africa is because solar in Africa is off-grid with charged batteries and mostly in the hands of low-income earners. As such when the market for batteries increases, the demand for solar decreases. The batteries or generator is a temporal solution to the electricity problem in Africa and not permanent like with solar. This temporal solution has caused major players in the renewable energy business to be out of reach for the African market because it is not profitable. Furthermore, is the political atmosphere and the policymakers that do not prioritise solar when making decisions thereby making the environment not favorable for investment. Finally, is the issue of finance because investors are unwilling to invest in solar PV unlike in the Netherlands and Germany where this sector is pritorise in investment. The government, banks, and investors in Africa are not motivated to support solar projects unlike in the EU with the EU Green Deals that motivate innovative ideas that cut across sectors in clean energy projects like solar.

At the same time, Africans continue to use biomass instead of solar because of their habits, the way things have always been, and because it is cheap. Gas can be bought for the generation in small amounts at any time. But the problem is that this is a temporal solution and in the long run, it ends up costing more. Also, others claim that solar using techniques also have their limitations which makes inhabitants opt for biomass.

What African can learn from EU solar projects

There are a number of ways that Africa can make solar projects attractive.

  1. Create learning platforms like workshops, webinars, e-learning that can help to educate and share knowledge about renewable energy and its benefits to locals and end-users.
  2. on-going projects should be stable from the beginning to ensure continuity after funding stops
  3. Projects should be in a way that is ready for operation when the funding is available. For example, land, PPAs in place, and should be able to sustain themselves.
  4. Create a strong EU-AU collaboration partnership in renewable energy.
  5. Create infrastructure in order to get the power to the locals.
  6. The individual government should create an enabling environment that encourages investment within and outside Africa like the case of the EU Green Deal, and which cuts across sectors like energy and agriculture.
  7. More diversified sources of energy can help to electrify the whole continent.

Access to technology is a game-changer with economic benefits and this can be greatly illustrated with solar energy and agriculture working hand in hand. EAL will continue to facilitate linkages between EU Tech companies and investors to agriculture in Africa. In doing this, EAL will help give an opportunity for African women access to enter the EU markets with technology that ensures trust in our food system, create jobs, and empower youths and women.

Author: Patience Chindong

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