August 5, 2010

Center Opens to Help Develop Renewable Energy Solutions in West Africa

Photo of a wind farm
in Cape Verde:
Martin Lugmayr/UNIDO
Among the many challenges facing Africa is having regular access to electricity, which is necessary for commerce, education and general development purposes. While Africa possesses vast sources of renewable energy, the current sources of energy for millions of Africans stem from fossil fuels or large-scale hyrdo dams that dramatically disrupt fragile ecosystems. Therefore, I was pleased to read the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) announcement that a regional center to help develop the renewable energy potential for West Africa opened in Cape Verde.

Based in the Cape Verde capital of Praia and supported by UNIDO and the Government of Austria, Cape Verde and Spain, the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), a specialized agency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) “will help develop renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in West Africa, in policy and capacity development and quality assurance, in designing financing mechanisms, and implementing demonstration projects with potential for regional scaling-up.”

“The current energy systems in the ECOWAS region are failing to support the growth prospects of the over 262 million inhabitants, especially the needs of the poor. The creation of ECREEE is a central milestone in efforts to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and services in the region,” said Yoshiteru Uramoto, Deputy to UNIDO’s Director-General. “Investing in renewable energy systems and introducing energy efficient technologies will contribute to the region’s economic and social development without harming the environment,” he added.

Photo of wind farm
in AndalucĂ­a, Spain:
Beatriz Feichtenberger/EXTENDA
I am familiar with Spain’s advances in renewable energy and it is encouraging to see countries like Austria and Spain provide financial and technical assistance to programs such as ECREEE, and their willingness to export technology to developing countries. Technology sharing from industrialize nations is vital to achieve sustainable development in the world’s most underserved countries.

UNIDO's July 6, 2010 announcement further explains, "Estimates suggest that a total of 23,000 MW of large and small hydroelectric potential is concentrated in five of the ECOWAS Member States, of which only 16 per cent has been exploited. There is good potential for all forms of bioenergy. Traditional biomass is already the main source of energy for the poor majority and accounts for 80 per cent of total energy consumed for domestic purposes. There are also considerable wind, tidal, ocean thermal and wave energy resources available. The region has vast solar energy potential. UNIDO has a number of projects in Africa where renewable energy sources like small hydro, biomass gasification, wind energy, solar thermal and photovoltaic, are used to promote the development of small industries, particularly in rural areas, that contribute to growth and poverty reduction."

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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