Gauging the Africa-EU Energy Partnership

Mercoledì, 8 Giugno, 2016
Francesco Causone, Emanuela Colombo, Lorenzo Mattarolo

Figure 1. Access to electricity and non-solid fuels in Africa (Source: AEEP Status Report Update 2016)


Africa is a continent rich in energy sources, both in quantity and variety, but poor in energy infrastructure. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012 more than 620 million of people in Africa did not have access to electricity, and nearly 730 million of people did not have access to modern fuel, although the situation varies significantly from country to country. North Africa, for example, is close to universal access to electricity; on the contrary, the sub-Saharan area is the least electrified region in the world. Here, the percentage of population with access to electricity drops dramatically, and 4 out of 5 citizens rely on traditional biomass to satisfy their energy needs. Significant differences also occur between rural and urban areas, with an average access to electricity of 69.9% in the urban context, compared to 26.3% in the rural one.

Africa is a young continent: nearly 70% of the population is under 25. According to United Nations estimates, the continent’s population doubled in the period 1982–2009, and quadrupled between 1955 and 2009.  The projected yearly growth rate for the next few decades is expected to be around 13%.

These facts alone could explain the huge migration flows within the continent, from rural areas to cities, where access to electricity is higher and better quality of life may be expected, as well as from Africa to other continents, especially Europe. Moreover, Africa is also plagued by many conflicts, originating from many causes. Among them, control of energy sources plays a pivotal role. These conflicts tend to exacerbate migration to extreme rates.


Second Stakeholder Forum of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership

In this scenario, the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) is one of the eight partnerships created following the December 2007 Lisbon summit, under the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) – a long-term framework for co-operation that allows Africa and Europe to work together to develop a shared vision, common policy approaches and actions. This is central to achieving the AEEP’s overall objectives – of improving access to reliable, secure, affordable and sustainable energy services on both continents. The Steering Group members of AEEP are the European Commission (EC), the African Union Commission (AUC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat, and representatives from three countries: Egypt, Germany and Italy.

The AEEP’s efforts focus on meeting a series of concrete, realistic and visible targets by 2020, as agreed at the Partnership’s First High Level Meeting, held in Vienna in September 2010, and at subsequent meetings, of which the Second Stakeholder Forum, held on 16-17 May at the Politecnico di Milano, is the latest.

The AEEP stakeholder forum is one of the strategic dialogue events organized by the AEEP, and it is hosted on a rotation basis by African and European cities every three years. The latest edition of the forum was addressed on how to advance renewable energy innovation, capacity building and investment, under the theme ‘Business and Science: Leading the Way to Sustainable Energy’. The Forum was organized in Milan to also pave the way to the First Italy–Africa Ministerial Conference, which took place on 18 May in Rome, under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in collaboration with ISPI. The Forum proved to be a unique opportunity to bring together stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and academia, and policy-makers from the public sector and international organizations, to discuss the African energy agenda.

The Forum was structured along plenary sessions, investigating the partnership progress within AEEP and instruments for investing in the energy sector in Africa. It also addressed the coordination and alignment with other global initiatives and programs, such as the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), ElectriFI, Power Africa, the Conference on Climate Change (COP21), the Sustainable energy for all initiative (SE4All), and the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, with a specific attention to three Sustainable Development Goals: SDG7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG13 (climate action). The Politecnico di Milano and the UNESCO Chair in Energy for Sustainable Development hosted the event, highlighting the key role that academia may play in contributing to societal challenges like energy, by preparing the next generation of professionals with the competence, skills, cross-cultural sensitivity and social responsibility to face the new challenge of sustainable development. AEEP representatives introduced a status report and a mapping study, with a picture of the energy initiatives and programs in Africa, and updates on the AEEP’s political targets to 2020, which were agreed during the First High Level Meeting in 2010 by African and European Ministers in the areas of energy access, energy security, renewable energy and energy efficiency. During the event, specific thematic sessions on these targets and major AEEP’s work streams were organized.


Mapping Energy Initiative and Programs in Africa

A key document presented during the Forum in Milano, is the “Mapping of Energy Initiatives and Programs in Africa” (see the Annex as well). Over the last few years, a number of initiatives was launched in the energy sector in Africa, with the common goal to support the continent in achieving a sustainable energy future. They show an increasing need for exchange and coordination between each other.

This exercise has been carried out by AEEP with funding from the European Commission, and the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) was tasked by AEEP to lead the related data collection in close cooperation with regional partners. Due to the time and resources availability constraints, the exercise was limited to major programs and initiatives active at the continental or regional level with some form of public sector involvement. The mapping exercise does not capture, therefore, details on traditional bi- and multilateral international cooperation, conducted by implementers (technical assistance providers, development banks, consultants, civil society) on behalf of donors.

The report indicates that virtually all initiatives and programs focus on the promotion of renewable energy, and close to 60% focus on renewables and energy efficiency. The vast majority of initiatives and programs address the electricity sector, while slightly over one third of them focus on heating and cooling. Cooking energy remains the least represented sector. Among the selected initiatives and programs, 84% provide some form of technical assistance, while 64% provide financing. Slightly over 50% offer a combination of the two. Full data on the individual initiatives is available online here.

The document also acknowledges that the majority of the energy sector ODA (Official Development Assistance) is still delivered via traditional bilateral and multilateral development cooperation. Hence, the mapping exercise can only provide a partial overview of Africa’s energy sector ODA. Moreover, the exercise would greatly increase its added value if it could be supplemented with comparable financial data on the various initiatives and programs.


Energy Access

African governments and the European Union acknowledged that access to sustainable energy is the basis for any modern economy, without which it is impossible to raise living standards or drive inclusive economic growth. Access to electricity creates safer, well-lit streets, saves time at home and allows food to be stored for longer. Electricity provides the foundation for modern healthcare, the media and digital world.

In the declaration for the First High Level Meeting of the AEEP, African and European ministers set the objective of achieving a continent-wide rate of access to modern and sustainable energy of around 50%, i.e. to bring access to electricity and non-solid cooking fuels at least to an additional 100 million Africans by 2020.

During the forum, it has been reported that indicators for access to electricity and clean cooking fuels remain uncertain, and Global Tracking Framework (GTF) statistics published to date are still in progress. However, preliminary data show an overall improvement in electricity access. If the current increase will be sustained, Africa is likely to achieve the AEEP’s target of 50% access by 2020. On the other hand, the second target on access to non-solid cooking fuel, which reached only 32.5% in 2012, is likely to be missed by 2020.


Energy Security

When addressing the issue of energy security, panellists highlighted the relevance of infrastructure development in terms of power generation and transmission, and the necessity to create a harmonized regulatory framework to enhance cross-border and regional integration.

Energy security targets set in 2010 included doubling the capacity of cross-border electricity interconnections, both within Africa and between Africa and Europe, and doubling the use of natural gas in Africa, as well as doubling African gas exports to Europe by building natural gas infrastructures.

The slow pace of PIDA projects and other cross-border schemes have slowed increases in the electricity transfer capacity; the database shows no new operating lines completed since 2011. However, recent progress in regional transmission projects suggests that, with improved project delivery, the AEEP target of doubling capacity by 2020 could be met. Among other energy security targets, gas consumption in Africa plateaued in 2012-2014, due to political and economic challenges that have also had an impact on gas exports to Europe, which fell to 46 bcm in 2014, having peaked at 85 bcm in 2006. If current reported trends will be confirmed, both targets on energy security and gas will be missed by 2020.


Renewable Energy

AEEP’s targets on renewable energy included building 10,000 MW of new hydropower facilities, installing at least 5,000 MW of wind power capacity and 500 MW of all forms of solar energy capacity, and tripling the capacity of other renewables, such as geothermal energy and modern biomass.

Data on generation plants in operation and planned for completion in the period to 2020 suggest that the installation of solar capacity has largely surpassed the AEEP’s 2020 political targets, which were agreed when the global renewable industry was at a much earlier stage of development. Installed solar capacity at end-2015 was 1,540 MW, compared to 1,030 MW in 2010. Hydroelectric power (HEP) remains the dominant renewable energy technology supplying African grids and, between 2010 and 2015, 2,174 MW of HEP capacity was added. On current trend, however, the 2020 target will be missed, and it may be achieved only on optimistic and balanced pipeline scenarios. Since 2010, 2,132 MW of wind power has been added in Africa, more than doubling the 2010 capacity of 1,120 MW. Analysis of the projects pipeline suggests that the AEEP’s political targets of adding 5,000 MW by 2020 can be met if 43% of the planned projects is completed on time. Finally, the AEEP database shows that some 1,410 MW must still be added to triple the amount of generation from biomass and geothermal resources from its 2010 levels. 2020 targets for this renewable energy technology may only be achieved on optimistic pipeline scenarios.


Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency (EE) represents one of the key targets that African and European leaders agreed to act on. Panellists discussed the necessity to integrate efficiency measures among all sectors of the energy chain, from generation and distribution to final energy uses. Special attention was dedicated to energy efficiency in the urban context, analysing different initiatives and instruments promoted at city level, among which the ‘Covenant of Mayors Program’, an initiative launched in 2008 by the European Commission.

AEEP’s political targets on EE were set only on a qualitative basis. The 2010 declaration reports about “improving EE in Africa in all sectors, starting with the electricity sector, in support to Africa’s continental, regional and sectorial targets”. 

The indicators adopted to monitor EE are network losses (%) and energy intensity (MJ/US$2011 PPP). World Bank/SE4All data suggests that Africa experienced a decrease in average final energy intensity of 20% (or an average 2.9% per year) in 2000-2012. Network losses remain a problem across Africa, and are exhibiting a stable trend, with only a 0.4% decrease between 2000 and 2012 (from 13.1% to 12.7%) and no change in 2010-2012. With no quantitative target defined, it is not possible to assess if the target for energy efficiency will be achieved.

Figure 2. AEEP political targets scenarios (Source: AEEP Status Report Update 2016)


The AEEP second stakeholder forum offered a crucial opportunity to reflect upon the energy sector in Africa, and existing EU-Africa cooperation on energy matters. However, substantial efforts are still required to harmonise the growing number of African-focused energy initiatives, together with an increased focus on private sector investments.

The current situation suggests that AEEP should consider revisions to its 2020 political targets. They could better address the progress done and react to market changes, also in terms of timeframe, taking into account that 2030 is the appointed reference for SE4All, the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), the Sustainable Development Goals and other international programs.

Forum participants adopted a Call for Action, where commitments from stakeholders were announced with the aim of contributing to the achievement of the 2020 targets. Four main needs were underlined:

  • · The recognition of the importance of regional cooperation and harmonization;
  • · The role of energy in climate change mitigation and adaptation actions, and its nexus with food and water security;
  • · The promotion of job creation through the development of the renewable energy sector;
  • · The importance of facing the energy issue at community level.

The final Stakeholders Communiqué also recognised that capacity building, gender balance, youth involvement, and a multi-stakeholders approach represent key fundamental aspects in order to substantially increase energy development in Africa and a mature cooperation between the EU and Africa. Energy Efficiency is expected to be one of the most important sectors for future African economic sustainability. Migration from rural areas to cities should therefore be contained, also through the promotion of the development of grids and mini-grids, based on the use of renewable energy technologies, to enhance access to electricity. Even if this policy were effectively actuated, urban population is however expected to grow substantially in the forthcoming decades, so larger investments should be directed toward planning activities that allow policymakers and experts to design better cites, buildings, sanitation, and energy systems, preventing congestion and slums growth. Ongoing European funded projects on Smart Cities, and established knowledge on bio- and passive architecture, should be rapidly shared between European and African institutions, and AEEP could play a key role in this process.

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