G7 Energy, focus on green Africa

Published on Monday, 10 April 2017

The energy future of Africa, where today over 600 million people still do not have access to energy, goes hand in hand with the development of clean technology, digitalised and innovative distribution systems and targeted regulatory frameworks. This is perfectly captured in the title of the conference 'Africa 2030: Empowering the continent through innovation, green tech solutions and capacity building,’ which was held on April 9th in Rome, as part of the side events of the G7 Energy summit.

The event, promoted by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, was organised in collaboration with Enel Foundation, RES4Africa and the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP), to take a snapshot of the energy situation in Africa and facilitate a dialogue on ideas, policies and regulations to accelerate access to safe, clean and affordable energy, creating job opportunities and fostering the sustainable growth of local economies both in rural and urban contexts.

It is a target that can only be achieved by integrating energy and social development, explained Francesco Venturini, Head of Enel’s Renewable Energy Division, CEO of Enel Green Power and a member of the board of the Enel Foundation, who opened the proceedings.

As Venturini recalled, Africa is a continent “with incredible resources and wonderful people, but that has huge problems.” These, he added, “arise from the fact that African countries are lagging behind from the point of view of economic development. In making our modest contribution, our objective, therefore, is to integrate energy development and social development.” In this context, “the minigrids which use batteries and renewables can be a valid solution and play a role as a driver for development.” The manager concluded that this is how Africa “is increasingly becoming a huge technological experimentation laboratory that will make a crucial contribution to the future of this industry.”

Setting clear policies and rules for the energy industry and fostering bottom-up innovation dynamics are the best accelerator and catalyst for investments.

The urgency of action in support of energy development in Africa was also confirmed by the Italian Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda, who stressed the opportunities for the continent offered by innovation and renewables: “New technologies represent an essential factor also for encouraging public and private investment,” explained the Minister who stressed the need for G7 governments to look to Africa “not only for ethical reasons, but also because it represents an opportunity for economic and social development.” He added, “Africa cannot recover its delay without energy and energy infrastructures,” but this “also requires good political and economic governance and the focus should be on human capital.”

The role of technological development for the energy transition in Africa was examined during the panel on ‘Innovative solutions for a secure and sustainable energy access.’ Francesco Catucci, Head of Minigrids at Enel Green Power, outlined the development approach adopted by our Group in Africa to achieve a measurable improvement of access to energy in Africa, starting from the transparent planning of interventions, to be shared and determined with all the stakeholders involved to ensure that everyone is heading in the same direction and at the same rate.

As part of the side-event of the G7 Energy summit, the Maxxi Museum in Rome will host three initiatives that combine art, innovation and energy, open to the public from April 11 to 15. The first is the photographic exhibition dedicated to the past and future of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, by the photojournalist Riccardo Venturi and the journalist and videomaker Lorenzo Colantoni, curated by Ilaria Prili and realized by the Akronos association. The second will give visitors the opportunity to see some showcases of innovative energy solutions, including a real mini-grid: a system for the generation of electricity from renewables to supply communities that are either remote or not connected to the grid, such as small islands, rural areas and emergency areas.

Until April 15, finally, it will be possible to attend the practical workshop by the NGO Liter of Light, which aims to spread an environmentally sustainable lighting system around the world, training populations in rural areas and developing a circular economy around renewable energy.