“Energizing” issues in modern political economy: cross-continental perspectives

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Recent conference organized by the Green Institute titled “Energizing Futures: Bridging Traditional Practices with Modern Innovations” was devoted to numerous issues vital both for African and European continents. As to the former, the analysis of traditional and modern practices in energy usage was somehow dominating; for the latter, these were the issues of progressive energy mix, security and affordability. 

Balancing traditional and modern approaches to energy in Africa and elsewhere at the time of contemporary numerous challenges (climate, digital, environmental, social, to name a few) requires fundamental transformation of the “energizing” concept in national and regional political economy.
The African history is full of tragic events: among numerous was a widespread colonization of the continent for over a century leading to a devastating effect on nomadic and traditional culture, as well as to energy use.
Politicians and decision-makers in both continents have to acquire a realistic vision “about the world”; it is vital for the African governance sectors elaborating perspective growth scenarios combining efforts to wellbeing and those reducing emigration. Regardless of the consequences, the process of “de-globalisation”, i.e. more independent states and several politico-economic blocks protecting the participants’ interests (like BRICS+, ASEAN, NAFTA, Mercosur, the EU, etc., as well as some political forums like G7 and G20), all regions in the world are pursuing their own growth agendas.

Energy mix
Formulating an optimal energy mix is tantamount to a progressive national/regional political economy’s patterns, specifically under present world-wide challenges: hence, the new “mix’ is emerging including renewables, e.g. solar power, onshore and offshore wind power, exploring nuclear energy facilities, as well as hydrogen and tidal power, etc. Most of the new aspects in the “new mix” is decarbonising electricity.
Although the demand for energy is growing everywhere, the energy use per capita in Africa is the lowest in the world, despite ample energy resources: Africa accounts for just 6 percent of global energy use; at the same time, the continent has less than 3 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Still, about 43 percent of African population lacks stable access to electricity, mostly in sub-Saharan regions; however, some countries are on track to full access by 2030, such as Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. For example, abundance in electricity is vital for some parts in Africa, e.g. in desalination of waters.
Renewables are the modern trend in energy mix: by 2035, according to International Energy Agency this source of energy will reach 65 percent of installed capacity.
Besides, in Africa solar and wind will grow faster that hydropower, i.e. in the energy mix by 2050 the following combination is envisaged: about 70 percent from solar and 20 percent from wind, and only 10 percent from hydropower.
The common denominator in all these predictions is the lack of investment, both public and private…

“Energizing futures”
In itself, the issue of “energizing futures” goes far beyond simple energy-type approaches; it is presently encircling numerous factors, particularly those of resolving “right balance” between the traditional and modern innovative approaches and solutions.
At the 6th EU-AU Summit in Brussels in February 2022, the partners adopted a “Joint Vision for 2030”, aligned with the African Union Agenda-2063 covering the span of 40 years. The Agenda-2063 is rooted in Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance and provides a robust framework for addressing past injustices and the realisation of the present century, which was announced by the United Nations as the “African Century”.
The Agenda represents a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the African continent over the next decades: i.e. it seeks to accelerate, for example, the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
Providing insights and outlining possible roadmaps for future research and implementation strategies that prioritize sustainability, economic viability and technological integration.

The African and the European “unions”
Optimal connections to the world for both continents are becoming tantamount to their progressive future. As soon as trade share in the world is slowly but persistently decreasing, that is from about 75 percent at the end of the last century to less than fifty percent presently (and the dominating “values of economic globalisation” proved false), the bilateral cooperation becomes extremely important.
The both “unions” are as different as specific: the African Union, AU consists of 54 states with about 1.4 billion people, whereas the European Union, EU consists of 27 states and with a population of “only” about 450 million. In the economic sense, the AU’s GDP is about $3 trillion (on par with such states as Germany and Japan), the EU’s GDP is about $20 trillion, i.e. six times bigger. The GDP per capita is also quite different: about $1.500 in AU and $54.000 in the EU…
Four years ago, at the end of 2020, a new platform was created to enable stakeholders from both “unions” (the EU and AU) to exchange ideas, best practices and make recommendations on major challenges affecting both continents. Besides, numerous Africa-Europe Foundation Strategy Groups are active in the areas of health, digital, agriculture and sustainable food systems, sustainable energy and transport.
Important to notice, that “connectivity” plays a vital role in taking Africa-Europe relations to the new level adequate to present global challenges: these connections bring together the expertise and skills of academics, think tanks, civil societies, as well as public and private sectors towards new level of understanding of the ultimate connections between traditional practices and modern innovations.
The EU aims to support Africa for a strong, inclusive, green and digital developmental transformation through such measures that would accelerate modern transitional efforts in green and digital spheres, in sustainable growth and employment, in strengthening energy resilience and improving education and training.
For example, in sustainable energy, the investment package will stimulate increase of renewable energy and hydrogen in the continental energy mix, access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy as well as supporting market integration and development sectors’ reforms.
More in: https://www.integrin.dk/2024/04/08/external-aspects-of-european-integration-energy-transition-in-africa/

Main discussions’ aspects
The conference’s participants explored the role of various energy systems and technologies in creating robust and sustainable energy solutions. Each participant addressed specific fields of expertise contributing to the overall energy landscape, identifying challenges, innovations and future prospects.
In the introduction to the issue of integrated energy systems, Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu set the discussion’s stage by pointing to the importance of integrating new technologies and traditional energy practices in create resilient and sustainable energy systems.
= In several case studies on hydrogen, solar and energy efficiency issues, e.g. prof. Marc Rosen, US discussed the role of hydrogen energy systems as a clean and scalable energy source, elaborating on how hydrogen can be integrated with other renewable energies for a balanced energy mix; prof. Kevin N. Nwailgwe, Botswana provided insights on solar energy initiatives in Southern Africa, emphasizing the ways this source of energy could serve as models for other regions with similar geographic and economic conditions; Dr. A. Honrubia Escribano, Spain visualized in detail the energy efficiency implementations in academic settings, offering a blueprint that can be adapted by other institutions globally.
= In the section on “Bridging New Technologies with Market Needs”, D. Alexander, US explored how emerging energy technologies can be successfully marketed and integrated into existing energy infrastructures, focusing on consumer acceptance and policy adaptations; prof. Daniel M. Kammen, US Berkeley University discussed the intersection of clean energy innovations with Sustainable Development Goals, providing a broad perspective on global impact.
= In the section on “Technological Innovations and Future Directions”, Dr. Wei Yan, US, Texas University discussed the application of mixed reality and AI in sustainable building design, illustrating the ways these technologies are leading to more efficient resource use; Dr. Ravi Kumar, India explained the advancements in solar energy storage technologies, particularly focusing on latent heat thermal energy storage systems for enhancing solar energy efficiency.
= On issues of “Challenges and Opportunities in Climate Adaptation and Mitigation”, Dr. Debbie Ley, Chile touched upon the role of clean energy technologies in mitigating climate change impacts, specifically looking at adaptation strategies for vulnerable regions.

    Note. The author is grateful to Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu, Green Institute’s Director for assistance in concluding the article. The Green Institute: greeninstituteng@gmail.com.

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