Innovative energy modelling paves the way for green development in Africa

Harnessing data for sustainable energy revolution in three African regions

April 8th, 2024, Zagreb, Croatia – The EMERGE project started in December 2023 and seeks to provide African policymakers, academics, investors, and citizens with the tools and knowledge required to increase the production of clean energy and the sustainable use of resources while bridging cultural and socioeconomic divides. To simulate scenarios that optimize the use of current resources while considering social, climatic, economic, and technical constraints, EMERGE will co-design and test a Toolbox by integrating and building upon existing tools, methodologies, and approaches. Additionally, a Knowledge Base with a collection of initiatives, materials, and knowledge-exchange activities will be created. The North Western Africa (Morocco), Niger River region (Mali/Nigeria), and East Africa (Mozambique) are three African ecosystems where EMERGE will develop knowledge communities through a participatory approach.

EMERGE concept is built using three relevant case studies in Africa that represent different types of regions in social, economic and energy contexts: Morocco, the Niger River Region and Mozambique. The representativeness of the case studies ensures broad replicability of the project solutions and provides an interesting opportunity to progress in the development of a just energy transition in Africa that provides energy access for local communities and the conservation of resources and the environment. Numerous stakeholders from EMERGE case studies have already expressed interest in project results and joined the Stakeholder Group. The Niger River pilot is also closely analysed in the ONEPlanET project which is modelling tools for sustainable energy transition in Africa. There are several useful inputs from this project for EMERGE and they include capitalizing information and knowledge (energy-related databases and models), promotion of joint activities and networking for the establishment of a strong expert group of African stakeholders.

To approach the complex issues of climate change from various perspectives, redefine them, and derive solutions based on a new understanding, EMERGE draws from several disciplines, including Climate Science and Impacts, Integrated Assessment Modelling, Social Science and Humanities, and Climate Policy. This results in the creation of a common assessment framework. The continuous collaboration with stakeholders and end users, which will guarantee that solutions satisfy their demands and fill the gap between the scientific community, decision-makers and end users, further strengthens this interdisciplinary approach. To do this, the EMERGE consortium is established with a focus on a good coverage of the various skills, competences, and knowledge required.

North Western Region has an enormous potential for building a sustainable low-carbon economy. The electric grid in Morocco is well developed, currently assuring access to electricity to almost everyone (91.6%). This makes Morocco an advanced pilot with a strong infrastructure where focus can be placed on cross-sector integration and flexibility increase in addition to accelerated RES integration.

Niger River region is facing the impacts of climate change – desertification and water scarcity. The area is also experiencing anthropogenic activities which are leading to deforestation, drought, and diseases. With the presence of water streams like the Baoulé, the Bagoé and Banifing flowing to the Bani River, the area has the potential for domestic energy.

Although Mozambique has undertaken significant efforts to electrify the country, access to electricity, however, remains low and is mainly focused on urban areas. This imbalance represents an important challenge to achieving country-wide electrification by 2030, considering that the vast majority (63% in 2019) of Mozambique’s population lives in rural areas. Mozambique’s Fundo de Energia (FUNAE), is the public institution responsible for off-grid rural electrification with a special focus on renewable energy and is directly involved in the Stakeholder Group.

The EMERGE project is coordinated by the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture at the University of Zagreb (UNIZAG FSB). Founded in 1919, UNIZAG FSB stands as a prominent institution within the Republic of Croatia, renowned for its advancements in scientific research, educational skills, and expertise across various domains including mechanical engineering, naval architecture, aeronautical engineering, energy and emerging fields like mechatronics and robotics.