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Young leaders tipped to be at core of Addis Ababa energy summit

media Wind power in Ethiopia REUTERS/Kumerra Gemechu

To discuss major issues related to global energy use and production, decision makers from across the globe are set to meet at the World Energy Leaders’ Summit, in Addis Ababa, this week. One of the main objectives of this summit is to facilitate discussions between the government, private sector and the public on energy related issues.

It is the first time the World Energy Council is hosting its summit in a sub-Saharan African country. The summit expects to receive 300 participants from 50 countries.

The summit in Addis Ababa is all about finding solutions in terms of energy demand, and how to deliver it.

The leaders will be concentrating on the energy trilemma: energy demand, delivering social benefits with energy access and minimizing environmental impact.

In addition to this energy trilemma, this year’s summit will also focus on renewable energy development and regional integration of energy infrastructure. The summit is a great opportunity, especially for young leaders, to get together and talk about the challenges ahead.

"The first challenge in Africa is of course the problem of electrification and access to clean energy. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 30% of the population has access to electricity, and we don't really know the quality of this electricity - you have shortages, cuts, it's not very efficient in a commercial point of view," Jean-Pierre Favennec, a specialist in the sector of energy told RFI. 

"So that's one major issue in Africa. The other sorts of problems is access to clean fuels, which means that instead of wood, used for cooking, they should use better fuels, cleaner fuels that would enable avoiding problems they have with wood - desertification, respiratory diseases etc..."

The African continent is full of resources, and Africa is now home to some of the fastest growing economies.

The question is, can the strength of these rising economies, coupled with Africa's plentiful resources, light up the continent and achieve the industrial transformation that it needs. And that includes the right economic environment to mobilize investment.

"Obviously there's the issue of access to finance and risk capitals to develop more projects, to bring more projects to bankability and to structure the financing of these projects, so that they can actually be delivered at competitive cost and competitive rates," Joao Duarte Cunha, African Development Bank Chief Climate Finance, Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa coordinator told RFI.

"And financing costs in Africa for infrastructure are quite high and again this is also something that stands in the way of good clean energy investments in the continent."

The energy strategy adopted by African countries is fundamental to how the continent responds to climate change while transforming its economies for inclusive green growth.

As of now, 90% of the energy we are using is fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, and these are what emit the most carbon dioxide (C02). So new ways of functioning are to be used and to be put forward.

"How to ensure sustainable expansion of the grid? There's a very significant renewable potential in Africa and the cost of renewables have come down worldwide," Dolf Gielen, the Director of the IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre, one of the organisations attending the summit in Addis Ababa, told RFI.

"Traditionally there was mainly hydro power being deployed in Africa, but now you see also rapid growth of both solar and wind and to some extent also geothermal... so that capacity has increased more than 5 fold in the last five years so that's very rapid growth."

Obviously, these are issues that not only concern Africa, and all of them will be addressed during the upcoming COP21 in Paris. 

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