Southern African News Features                                           SANF 10 No 33, Aug 2010
Africa, Europe to announce joint energy plan
by Kizito Sikuka

Africa and Europe are preparing a 10-year action plan to strengthen cooperation in the energy sector.

The announcement is expected at the forthcoming high level meeting of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) scheduled for September in Vienna, Austria.

AEEP is one of the eight strategic partnerships launched by Africa and the EU in 2007 to boost mutual cooperation between the two continents.

Other partnerships focus on climate change, peace and security, infrastructure, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and regional trade and integration.

According to a draft agenda of the AEEP meeting, the two continents are also expected to launch the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme that aims among other things to encourage the uptake of renewable energy.

Renewable energy such as solar, hydro and wind, regarded the cleanest forms of energy, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to improved energy security and access, and could be the backbone of a future low-carbon energy system.

Africa and the EU are both endowed with vast renewable energy resources. However, little has been done by the former to exploit its resources to address the current energy shortages prevailing in the continent.

For example, based on a recent analysis by the African Development Bank (AfDB), Sub-Saharan Africa has the potential to produce more than 170 gigawatts (GW) of additional power generation capacity -- more than double the sub-regionís current installations -- through 3,200 "low-carbon" energy projects such as hydro.

"Within the framework of the partnership, the first high level meeting of the AEEP will launch the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme that will open new linkages in the energy economic sector for industrial trade and business cooperation between Africa and Europe," AEEP said in a statement.

The meeting would also endorse a roadmap as well as concrete targets for the AEEPís future work until 2020. Some of the main programmes of the AEEP include scaling up investment in the energy sector and improving access to reliable, secure and affordable energy.

The Vienna meeting would reinforce cooperation on energy interconnection in Africa and between Africa and the EU, the AEEP said, adding that this will "send a clear message on energy cooperation between the two continents" ahead of the upcoming Africa-EU Summit set for November in Libya.

Launched after the Europe-Africa Summit of Heads of State and Government from the two continents, held in Portugal in December 2007, AEEP has played a crucial role in strengthening cooperation between Africa and the EU in the energy sector.

Such cooperation includes increased financial support through the European Development Fund and the EU Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility to support African countries to improve the business climate for energy investment.

AEEP is also working towards the standardization and integration of energy markets both at the regional and continental levels.

Co-chaired by Austria and Germany (EU) and the African Union and Mauritius (Africa), AEEP aims to create a forum for energy dialogue between EU and Africa to jointly tackle issues of energy security.

The partnership also seeks to integrate other issues such as climate change to encourage the uptake of renewable and clean forms of energy that are reliable, accessible and affordable to all citizens.

Policy makers from the commissions of the AU and EU, national ministers responsible for energy, representatives of regional economic communities as well as business and civil society representatives are expected to take part in the AEEP meeting set for 14-15 September.

The AEEP meeting was originally planned for April before being rescheduled due to the volcanic activities in Iceland that forced most airspace in Europe to close.

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