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Paving the way for clean and affordable energy sources in Africa


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Green Deal Projects Support Office

This article explores the issue of the common need for clean energy in developing countries and how significant it is within the context of the EU Green Deal. Due to the importance of transitioning to clean and sustainable energy sources, particularly in developing countries that face numerous challenges, the European Union (EU) has placed this pressing global issue at the forefront of its ambitious set of transformative policies. 

Having consistently emphasised sustainable development as a core objective within its policy framework, the EU aims to provide funding support to projects that drive towards building a greener, more prosperous and inclusive future. 

EU financial instruments for clean energy in developing countries
With a vast potential for wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal energies in the African continent, the EU has set up the External Investment Plan (EIP), to mobilise public and private investments for sustainable development projects, including clean energy. This is further supported by the European Development Fund (EDF) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), financial instruments that support renewable energy projects and capacity-building efforts in developing countries.

In addition, the Electrification Financing Initiative (ElectriFI) provides early-stage financing, focusing on off-grid and mini-grid solutions. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects can also rely on investments, guarantees, and technical assistance provided by the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD). In order to leverage additional funding for projects in this sector, the EU extensively collaborates with international financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Challenges and opportunities – a two-way street
Developing countries often struggle with limited financial resources, that hinder their ability to transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. This leads to a lack of institutional capacities including trained personnel, technical expertise, and administrative/legislative frameworks. Similarly, policy and regulatory frameworks may not be adequately designed to fully support the adoption of clean energy solutions. The EU has a significant role in knowledge-sharing to alleviate this. 

It is worth noting that this can work in both directions – for instance, while developing African countries can learn a lot from Europe’s enabling policy and regulatory environment, Europe can also acquire knowledge and practical experiences of decentralised deployment of solutions in Africa.

These challenges highlight the complexities developing countries face in transitioning to clean energy. Addressing them successfully requires a comprehensive approach that includes financial support, capacity building, policy reforms, technology transfer, and infrastructure development. Below you can find in the spotlight three key projects under the Horizon 2020 European Green Deal Call that are making a difference.

Project spotlight:

ENERGICA - Energy access in urban and rural Africa


ENERGICA focuses on improving energy access and sustainable energy development in Europe and Africa. It aims to develop innovative technologies adapted to local needs through three demonstration sites: Diana region in Madagascar,  Freetown in Sierra Leone and urban Kenya (Nairobi and Kisumu).

The project provides rural Madagascar with innovative nano-grids for renewable water and food production, semi-urban Sierra Leone with a new waste-to-biogas and water purification system to produce energy, water and food fertiliser, while in urban Kenya it aims to develop solar powered electric mobility for mototaxis. As the main objective is to demonstrate the efficient implementation of renewable energy technologies that match local needs in three demonstration sites, ENERGICA established with the local communities Energy Transition Boards (ETB) to bring about Integrated Community Energy Systems (ICESs) at community scale.

An important aspect of the project is the use of co-creation to bring together local stakeholders at the various levels and to embed the energy infrastructure into the context in balance with local energy needs and available resources. This approach has turned out to be beneficial in multiple ways, resulting not only in the project adaptation to the local context but also in its high market uptake potential and replication in other sites. The project activities are anticipated to positively impact 1,500 local stakeholders across Africa, with benefits in many thematic areas: social, economic and environmental. 

REFFECT AFRICA - Renewable Energy Financing and Technical Assistance for Africa

REFFECT AFRICA is committed to increase the number of people with access to electricity. In this way, the project will demonstrate innovative, reliable and adapted sustainable energy solutions based on the valorisation of biomass waste from agriculture and the food industry through biomass gasification. It considers renewable energy generation, transmission, and storage systems and aims to break the link between water, energy and food for a more sustainable system. REFFECT AFRICA will adapt and optimize these technologies to a wide variety of biomass wastes: olive mill residues, almond hulls and husks, millet, rice, sorghum or peanut wastes and sugarcane bagasse, among others locally available.

Three full-scale demonstrators will be built in Morocco, Ghana and South Africa to consider both urbanized and rural contexts in Africa, on- and off-grid solutions, as well as different socio-economic backgrounds.

With the aim to closing all water- energy-food links, the project will work on obtaining biochar from the gasifier, and will be improved to provide a valuable fertilizer to local farmers. The demonstrators will also include a robust and reliable water laboratory to provide each location with basic but often lacking water testing services.

SESA - Smart Energy Solutions for Africa

SESA project logo
SESA is being implemented in nine African countries to develop and test solutions to accelerate the continent’s green transition and improve its access to energy. With a focus on research and the introduction of new technologies and services in urban and rural settings, the project aims to deepen technical, financial and political dimensions and co-develop scalable and replicable energy access innovations. 

Innovative clean energy solutions developed under SESA include the use of second-life electric vehicle batteries, smart micro grids and waste-to-energy systems. The initial living lab concept was implemented in Western Kenya in a rural (Homa Bay) and urban (Kisumu) context. In these areas, more than 40% of the local population live below the poverty line and many face the challenge of poor access to affordable electricity, dependence on fossil fuel energy, unemployment, and lack of clean drinking water. 

The first phase of the project featured innovative solutions such as using water hyacinths from Lake Victoria to produce biogas. Two self-sustaining solar hubs were set up with the aim of achieving an integrated system for: sustainable access to energy; productive use of energy and adherence to circular economy principles. The project findings have been incorporated into a toolkit that provides advanced implementation and management strategies which can be easily applied and replicated in other sites. The second phase of the project will see energy solutions being tested in Ghana, Malawi, Morocco and South Africa.

The future

Looking ahead to the potential advancements and innovations in clean energy technologies, we can expect the continued research and development to lead to significant breakthroughs. Innovations in decentralised and off-grid energy solutions, reductions in energy demand, and enhancements in the effectiveness of clean energy with new renewable sources (e.g. tidal energy, geothermal energy, and bioenergy) offer potential avenues for diversifying the clean energy mix in developing countries.

Increasing the production of renewable energy provides numerous co-benefits that extend across continents. Reducing costs as well as improving energy security, market opportunities and knowledge exchange benefit not only in the regions where they occur but also have positive impacts globally. Embracing leap-frogging strategies empowers developing nations to accelerate their transition to sustainable energy systems. It also contributes to global efforts in mitigating climate change and improving our environmental conditions. 

Through shared efforts and international cooperation, multilateral partnerships and green climate funds continents can accelerate the global clean energy transition and work towards a sustainable and low-carbon future for all.

Find out more about the Clean Energy Working Group projects from the Green Deal Projects Support Office:


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