Finland is supporting development of applications for renewable energy sources in Africa
”Finland operates as an intermediary in a regional project to support energy partnerships between various players,” says counsellor Katriina Koivisto, describing the three-year-long project launched this year in eight East African and Southern African countries.
Katriina Koivisto works at the Embassy of Finland in Pretoria, South Africa. She is responsible for projects pertaining to the natural resources sector, with themes such as new energy partnerships, development of applications for renewable energy sources, and enhancement of national meteorological services.
”The model for our energy partnership project comes from Central America, where a corresponding project has been going on for years. In addition to Southern and East Africa, the model will be tried out in the Mekong river region in South-East Asia and Indonesia. We are planning a similar project for the Andes in South America,” Koivisto says.
”The purpose of the project is to support enterprises' and other players' proposals for development of applications for renewable energy sources. The proposals may relate to water power, solar or wind energy or, for example, using bio gas or developing bio fuels.”
We expect innovative proposals and prefer a fresh angle. We have raised awareness of the project in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa in the spring, and in the autumn we will continue to Zambia, Swaziland, Mozambique and Namibia.
Wind atlases and solar thermal collectors
”The project's host organisation is the Development Bank of Southern Africa, with a dedicated project office of three persons. The project steering group had its first meeting in May. The members of the steering group include the persons responsible for renewable energy and energy efficiency issues in their national ministries,” Koivisto says.
”The group discussed more than a hundred proposals, roughly twenty of which were shortlisted. Now we are looking forward to receive more detailed project plans for these projects.”
The candidates are expected to contribute and commit to the project. Another objective is to encourage the candidates to test their proposals, to draft feasibility reports, and to conduct pilot studies before launching the actual operations. A single project can receive up to 200,000 euros for developing the idea.
”We welcome, for example, proposals for setting up solar thermal collectors for heating up water, or proposals for preparing a wind atlas, which means finding out the most optimal locations for a wind power plant or a windmill; where the wind blows, and to what extent and to which direction it blows,” says Koivisto. Local enterprises can also cooperate with Finnish enterprises.
”The technology itself does not have to be new. We appreciate a fresh approach and different impacts of the projects,” Koivisto sums up.
Commitment and contribution expected from the candidates
The steering group carefully combs through the proposals submitted by enterprises and other players, such as research institutes and associations. The feasibility of the project and the candidates' commitment, contributions and budgets are assessed in this phase.
”Also in this phase, the national representatives make sure the proposals are in line with the specific country's national legislation and priorities. The technical team – including the sponsors, Finland and Austria – evaluates the technical feasibility of the projects,” Koivisto says.
”Finland will grant 8.5 million euros in support of the energy partnership project in 2010-2012. The other sponsor, Austria, supports the project with one million euros. Austria also takes part in the project in Central America.”
Apart from the energy partnership project, Finland is supporting the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) by granting one million euros for preparation of a regional strategy for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The regional meteorological project is in place to enforce the national meteorological services in the SADC countries. The Finnish Meteorological Institute has participated in the preparatory phase and training of the personnel. The actual project phase will continue for several years, and the allocated budget is 6-8 million euros.
”Bilateral development cooperation between Finland and South Africa will cease in the beginning of 2011. Instead, we will continue our regional cooperation, which is also in support of mutual partnerships and dialogue between the Southern African countries,” Koivisto concludes.
The author is a freelance journalist specialised in development issues.