An immense green island where the sun, water, wind and earth generate energy in harmony with the environment and people.
The story of how Africa became the greenest continent in the world is yet to be written. But the foundations to help the continent make the leap into the new millennium through the development of an efficient and sustainable energy system can be laid now.
This was the focus of the fifth RES4MED (Renewable Energy Solutions For The Mediterranean) Conference, the network founded in 2012 to promote the development of renewables in the Mediterranean region and in the countries of North Africa, but which today has broadened its scope of action to central and southern Africa as well.
Renewables to grow
The conference which was held on the 22 May in Rome was devoted entirely to the issue of innovation as a key factor for the development of a sustainable energy system from the coasts of the Mediterranean to the sub-Saharan area.
Although 13% of world population lives in Africa and its demand for energy is growing, Africa still accounts only for 4% of the total. In rural areas, about 600 million Africans still do not have access to electricity, while where there is a dispatching system, the precarious state of infrastructure does not ensure continuity in service.
Africa has therefore the urgent need to increase investments in the electricity sector, using its huge natural resources in a sustainable way. In this regard, the private sector and foreign investors can play a crucial role in supporting and guiding the construction of a competitive and innovative energy system. However, it is also necessary to have the support of a regulatory system which favours renewables as a driver of competitiveness and innovation.
"African governments will understand that renewable energies are easier to implement and less expensive and can meet the needs of the population"
Francesco Starace, Enel CEO
Renewable energies offer significant advantages also in fostering socio-economic growth through the creation of jobs, the fight against poverty and the birth of new businesses. A mix of large-scale projects, decentralised solutions and improvements of the grid represent the best strategy to ensure universal access to clean, reliable and accessible energy services and the foundations for sustainable growth in Africa.
"The whole of Africa can become green by bringing renewable electricity to the continent through a strategy based on two pillars: innovation and sustainability"
Antonio Cammisecra, RES4MED President and Director of Global Renewables Energies at Enel
Innovation for a dynamic continent
To bring innovative green technologies to Africa, it is necessary to invert the traditional paradigm of development of energy systems, integrating innovation and sustainability tools already in the design phase and understanding the real needs of people.
Technologies, such as mini-grids, off-grid systems, and smart grids for urban and suburban areas, are some of the technologies which, together with the development of the renewables supply chain, can encourage countless commercial partnerships along the entire value chain.
"We need to imagine new business models for emerging countries and innovation is the key. However, everyone has to follow his own path, because freedom is one of the key ingredients for innovation and therefore progress—not just in economic terms"
Ernesto Ciorra, Director of Innovation and Sustainability at Enel
E-Solutions, innovation generates business
Technological progress offers endless growth opportunities, but it should also be tailored to the contexts in which it will be used in order to identify possible new uses of energy. This awareness has led Enel to create a new business unit, Global e-Solutions, to capitalise on the transformation of the energy industry and meet the needs of our global customers exploring the opportunities offered by new technologies and developing innovative products centered on the needs of consumers and customers throughout the world.
Even in Africa. It is a reality that is experiencing dynamic growth, with a generation of young people projected directly into the digital age and capable of designing innovative development models, including for the energy sector.
"Technology alone is not enough to innovate. We must help the communities in which we operate to find their own growth path. If you do not promote socio-economic development in different ways, energy cannot change the world"
Francesco Venturini, Director of Global E-Solutions at Enel
Innovation, social development, and training. Our company operates in several areas of Africa through the Renewables division, from the countries in the north, such as Morocco and Algeria, through Zambia, to South Africa where we have 522 MW of installed renewable energy capacity. Alongside the development of green plants, we are working together with communities to develop local skills and promote development with projects like Liter of Light and MothersToMothers in South Africa and collaboration with NGOs like Emergency in Uganda, where we are providing a photovoltaic system for the paediatric hospital.
Developing the potential of human capital, understanding the real needs of the population, and integrating innovation and sustainability in plans for the development of energy systems in emerging countries are a crucial step to bring sustainable energy and growth to Africa. It is a story yet to be written, but it may become a reality. Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible until it's done.”