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Electricity for everyone

Renewable energies are improving access to electricity in Africa while at the same time mitigating climate change. Germany is supporting this development.


Looking at energy needs in vari­ous parts of the world, there is one region that particularly catches the eye: Sub-Saharan Africa. Energy demand here has increased very sharply during the course of this century. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy consumption soared by 45% between 2000 and 2012. At the same time, the number of people with access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa has also risen in ­recent years. Nonetheless, more than 600 million people in this region still have to live without electricity.

It is hoped that the Africa Renewable ­Energy Initiative will make an import­ant contribution to making clean and 
affordable energy more widely avail­able. African heads of state presented the initiative at the climate change negotiations in Paris in 2015. It will help tap into the African continent’s considerable ­potential when it comes to renewable ­energies. The initiative plans to have ten gigawatts of additional renewable en­ergy capacities in place in Africa by 2020. By 2030, it is hoped that renewables will contribute 300 gigawatts – thereby doub­ling the available capacity as compared with today’s figure. Germany’s Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks emphasised how important the initiative also is in terms of global climate change mitigation: “Africa has a substantial appetite for energy. We must make sure now that this appetite is not sated using coal, oil or gas. Renewable energies are a better solution.“

The G7 states, Sweden, the Netherlands and the European Commission have promised to invest around ten billion US dollars in developing renewable energies during the course of the initiative. Between 2015 and 2020, Germany will be ­investing three billion euros, the largest contribution.

The German government is committed to achieving the initiative’s goals on many different levels. It is supporting the expansion of West African and South African ­integrated power grids, for example. Furthermore, it is promoting the interlinking of national electricity systems to form ­regional networks, for example at the ­Ruzizi river that runs along the borders of Burundi, Ruanda and the Democratic ­Republic of Congo. “The aim is not only to improve the energy supply for people at the local level, but also to create a sus­tainable foundation for trade and economic growth,” explains Peter Fischer, the Deputy Director General for Energy and Climate Policy and Export Control at ­Germany’s Federal Foreign Office.

Germany is also working with African countries within the framework of energy partnerships. Nigeria has been such a partner since 2008. The two countries are cooperating, for example, on a solar project at the University of Ibadan in the southwest of the country. In future, all the electricity required by the university is to be supplied by solar power. The project will get underway in October 2016. “So far, the university has always had to produce its electricity exclusively using expensive diesel generators,” reports Peter Fischer. Another energy partnership has been established with South Africa, where the German government funds Cape Town’s South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC), for example. The centre runs training courses for solar and wind power engineers, the first apprentices having begun their training there in February 2016.

One of the topics addressed at the 
10th German-African Energy Forum in Hamburg in April 2016 was how ­Germany can contribute to making Africa’s energy systems more sus­tainable and more secure. Over 300 entrepreneurs, policymakers and scientists exchanged ideas and views at the forum, discussing among other things the global energy transition. “Africa has huge potential and Germany, which already has considerable experience in this area, is ready to cooperate,” says Peter Fischer. 
It became clear once again at the event that the use of renewable energies has many other advantages besides climate change mitigation – for example, it helps countries become less dependent on energy imports, and can also ensure that their air is cleaner.

At the African Energy Transition Conference in Cape Town, the Federal Foreign Office showed how the energy transition is already being successfully imple­mented at the national level. At 20 interactive stations, a spotlight on “Germany’s ­Energy Transition” provided information about the various aspects of the transform­ation and about milestones in energy 
policy since the oil crisis in the 1970s. Frequently asked questions were answered, and dialogue about a more sustainable global energy supply was encouraged.

The German government is also keen to put the topic of the climate and renew­able energies on the agenda within the framework of a possible membership 
in the United Nations Security Council. ­Germany has applied for a non-per­manent seat on the Security Council for the period 2019/2020. When announcing his country’s candidature, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasised how renewable energies can contribute to a safe and fair world. “The highly-developed G20 states in particular need to address the question of how we can use technological progress, digitisation, the quantum leap in renewable energies and envir­onmental technologies that we have made through Germany’s shift to green energy – how we can use all that to drive economic and political ownership much further forward throughout the world, also in the global south,” said Steinmeier. “This is in our own interests in creating a more stable and secure world, but it is ­also a question of justice.” ▪