Building local capacities and promoting applied research are essential pillars in the development, promotion, and dissemination of renewable energies in Africa. However, while an increasing number of academic institutions in Africa are dedicated to renewable energy research, the exposure to the international scientific community, as well as access to available support mechanisms and funds remain limited. In order to tackle the above-mentioned issues, the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme (RECP), the Pan African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences (including climate change) (PAUWES), and University of Abou Bekr Belkaïd Tlemcen have jointly organized the first Africa-EU Symposium on Renewable Energy Research and Innovation from the 8th to the 10th of March 2016 in Tlemcen, Algeria. 135 international experts attended the event, representing universities, research institutions, public sector, industry associations, and international organizations from 30 countries in Africa and Europe.
The objectives of the symposium were as follows:
- Foster the dialogue and exchange between renewable energy experts
Promote Africa-EU academic networking and research cooperation
Share information and build capacities to access research funds and cooperation platforms
Several universities and institutions are already conducting high quality research on renewable energy in Africa. A wide range of renewable energy research projects from Africa and the EU were presented and discussed at the symposium, including: wind energy resource assessment, innovative electrification approaches, modelling of energy storage systems, fuel cell technologies, and employment impacts of renewable energy market developments.
A people-centered approach should be applied in every research project on renewable energy in Africa, addressing the ultimate goal of ensuring sustainable energy supply and use for all people in Africa.
The role of academia in advancing renewable energy market development cannot be emphasized enough. Academia can lead the development and implementation of new technologies, innovative mechanisms as well as policies and strategies.
The role of national governments and public institutions is essential in promoting the people-centered approach and fostering foreign investment in the private sector. Energy strategies for the people need Local Empowerment and ownership.
International partnerships with universities and the private sector industry are key success factors for research projects. Africa-EU and regional research cooperation enables real knowledge transfer, capacity building and joint use of facilities, and creates new opportunities for accessing funding sources.
Financing renewable energy research in Africa remains a challenge, though funds are available. Lack of awareness, difficult application procedures and limited capacities often hinder access to available funding sources such as Horizon 2020.
All research projects presented at the symposium are available in the book of short abstracts; the conference proceedings were published in the Elsevier journal “Energy Procedia, ISSN 1876-6102” and can be accessed here. All participants are encouraged to continue the dialogue to establish concrete partnerships and new projects – through bilateral exchange, by joining the presented initiatives, and platforms for cooperation, including: the PAUWES Community of Practice, the Africa-EU Energy Partnership and Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme, the African Renewable Energy Alliance, the Low Carbon Energy for Development Network, REN21, EUROSUNMED, ANSOLE, UniPID, REELCOOP, and AfDB’s open data for Africa. The organizers will continue to share upcoming opportunities for research and cooperation. The outcomes of this symposium will feed into upcoming events and programmes, thus contributing to the sharpening of the role of academia and research in advancing renewable energy development in Africa.