- A new regional centre to help develop the renewable energy potential for West Africa opened today in Cape Verde's capital Praia. The region is said to have "a vast potential."
The new Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), a specialised agency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is to remain based in Praia. It is supported by the UN's Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the governments of Cape Verde, Austria and Spain.
The centre aims at helping to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in West Africa, formulate policy, build capacity and quality assurance mechanisms, as well design financing plans. The centre also plans to implement demonstration projects with potential for regional scaling up.
According to UNIDO deputy leader Yoshiteru Uramoto, the centre could have an important impact. "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," he noted.
"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," Mr Uramoto says.
"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.
It is estimated that a total of 23,000 megawatts of large and small hydroelectric potential is concentrated in five ECOWAS member states, of which only 16 percent has been exploited.
Traditional biomass is already the main source of energy for the poor majority and accounts for 80 percent of total energy consumed for domestic purposes.
But there are also "considerable wind, tidal, ocean thermal and wave energy resources available," according to UNIDO. "The region has vast solar energy potential," the agency adds.
UNIDO has a number of projects in Africa where renewable energy sources like small hydro, biomass gasification, wind energy, solar thermal and photovoltaic energy are used to promote the development of small industries, particularly in rural areas, that contribute to growth and poverty reduction.
The agency has also developed an energy programme for 18 countries in West Africa, including all ECOWAS member states. ECREEE is set to become the main implementing agency of the US$ 150 million programme that is to focus on the energy access agenda and energy efficiency in key sectors of the economy.
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