“Without energy, factories cannot function, schools cannot be lit and families cannot cook, and this is a situation that many people are still facing today,” said the European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in advance of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly. Climate change was a key topic for delegates during their discussions from the 23rd to 25th September 2014. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso used the occasion in New York to sign energy cooperation agreements with Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Togo and Rwanda as part of an EU energy initiative agreed two years ago.
These efforts aim to supply around 500 million people with power from renewable sources by 2030. Within the current budgetary period the EU has made 3.3 billion euros available for grant allocations, with two billion being earmarked for Africa alone. Rural areas, where energy needs have been particularly poorly served, are set to enjoy improved access to renewable energy sources.
Current projects: some examples
The EU is currently supporting, for example, a 310 MW wind-farm project on Kenya’s Lake Turkana with a grant of 25 million euros from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. The money has unlocked a total investment of 625 million euros. The project will reduce the country’s import dependency and offset shortfalls from the existing season-sensitive supplies from hydropower.
In Liberia, the EU is providing funding worth 2 million euros for a project, run by “Save the Children”, to install solar panels. This rural electrification initiative will provide power for all public health facilities. For as many as 1.5 million people in rural areas, it will mean access to electric lights and radios for the first time. Liberia has a total population of 3.5 million.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) plans to provide 23 million euros for one of the largest solar photovoltaic power stations in sub-Saharan Africa. The scheme, costing 70.5 million euros, will give Burkina Faso a 30 megawatt facility. It will be built outside the capital, Ouagadougou, and operated by the national utility company Sonabel. The plant is conceived as a blueprint for similar projects in other countries.
Electricity demand in Burkina Faso has been rising annually by 10 per cent in recent years, making the country increasingly reliant on energy imports from Ghana and Ivory Coast. Power cuts and the lack of access are clearly an obstacle to economic growth. Only a quarter of the population have access to the grid. The loan agreement with the EIB runs for 20 years.
Roland Krieg, Journalist, Berlin/Germany