Keynote speech EVP Timmermans at the Europe Africa Business Forum event on Sustainable Energy

(Source: European Commission)

I am delighted to join the Europe Africa Business Forum to open this important dialogue between African and European stakeholders on the energy transition.

Energy is at the core of our partnership because sustainable energy is a key engine for Africa’s socio-economic transformation and growth. And while the number of people having access to electricity in Africa doubled between 2014 and 2019, it is unacceptable that two out of three people still lack access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is even paradoxical:

The African continent holds some of the world’s best potential for new renewable energy and green hydrogen production, which could be leveraged to enhance productivity, create jobs and improve lives.

Africa and the EU already have a longstanding cooperation on energy. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU allocated more than 3 billion euros to sustainable energy in more than 30 African partner countries.

It gave energy access to more than 20 million people, supported 8 Gigawatts of renewable energy and avoided over 14 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

We really need to expand this and we will expand this.

First, 30% of our external budget will be allocated to climate action. And altogether at least 29 billion euros will be allocated for Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 2021-2027.

Second, Global Gateway. Our new global connectivity strategy will mobilise 300 billion euros in investments to fulfill the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. It is our offer to partner countries for sustainable infrastructure investments based on democratic values.

Third, private capital. Public finance will never be enough to respond to all global needs. That is why the Global Gateway package will aim to unlock investments from the private sector.

With the Africa-Europe Green Energy Initiative we will specifically increase the share of renewable energy generation in Africa’s energy mix; we will increase the number of African people gaining access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy, and we will promote energy efficiency.

The situation in my view is clear.

Electricity costs from renewables have fallen sharply over the past decade, and they are now the least-cost option for new capacity almost everywhere. Solar technology can provide the cheapest electricity humanity has ever seen. And the cost reduction is set to continue this decade and continue to undercut both coal and gas power generation in terms of costs.

Of course, if our partners want to develop their gas resources, it is their sovereign right. Obviously. A number of African countries made substantial gas discoveries recently and we acknowledge the role of gas as a transitional fuel. But let’s also look at facts and figures, let’s look at the cost of generating electricity and the cost of infrastructure, because these investments have to make economic sense as well.

With cheap renewables there is a double dividend for Africa, because cheap renewable energy opens doors to energy access in regions where millions of people have been living without electricity. The sun shines on every roof. And renewable energy can be generated in an extremely decentralized manner, without needing an extensive grid.

Cheap renewables also open doors to green hydrogen. This creates opportunities for Africa to move to higher value added industrial sectors.

So renewables, in fact, offer a triple dividend. Energy access, producing green hydrogen, and exporting green steel or green fertilisers, creating new jobs for young people entering the labour market.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Africa contributes least to global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is among the most affected by the climate crisis today. In the future, however, it could be one of the biggest winners of the clean energy transition.

Europe has no interest in becoming a green fortress. We want to lead the global green economy and we will support early movers in Africa, because our destiny and that of our sister continent are closely linked.

The European Union and Africa are natural partners. So let’s continue to work towards a strong alliance around African priorities: adaptation, loss and damage, climate finance. Let’s make the most out of technological progress, let’s use this decade to make energy poverty history and let’s bring green jobs and green growth to the African continent.

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