The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, in cooperation with eight partner countries and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), on Wednesday launched its Energy and Environment Partnership programme with Southern and East Africa (EEP-SE&A).
Speaking at the launch in Johannesburg, the ambassador of Finland Tiina Myllyntausta said that energy consumption was on the increase worldwide, especially in developing and emerging countries.
"With climate change being a growing concern, the world has to learn to reduce its reliance on traditional sources of energy and develop the potential and access to sustainable energy sources derived from renewable energy sources, of which Africa has an abundance off."
The EEP-SE&A programme was launched to provide partial financing for feasibility studies, as well as pilot and demonstration projects in the renewable energy and energy-efficient sectors.
The programme seeks to support activities that would result in policy and market awareness creation, establishing project feasibilities, implementation of commercial projects and the provision of reliable and affordable renewable energy solutions for rural areas.
To achieve this, the Finnish government would contribute €8,5-million to approved projects over the next three years to the eight partnering countries that included: South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.
The Austrian Development Agency was also planning to contribute €1-million to the initiative.
The maximum amount available for a single project from the programme fund was €200 000, however, there was no limit to the amount of projects that would be approved within the budget, which was made available to private and public companies, research institutes and civil society organisations.
DBSA representative Mary Kamari noted that not only would the DBSA manage and host the EEP-SE&A programme, but it would also, together with Finland and other international agencies, examine the nature of additional support that might be needed to effectively implement renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.
Meanwhile, South Africa's Department of Energy deputy director-general Daniel Modise pointed out that the African continent was the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, but the least prepared to deal with it.
He said that one of the biggest challenges that the continent was experiencing, was to scale up energy access and to mobilise the necessary finance for it.
"The investment needs are so huge and public resources are so limited, that there is no alternative to sourcing much of the funding gap from capital markets. Increased volumes of financing from multilateral and bilateral donors are necessary to complement and leverage finance from private markets, public resources and customer and community contributions."
Modise said that the department believed that the EEP-SE&A programme would provide much- needed assistance to South Africa and to the other African partner countries in furthering the continent's ambitions to facilitate the development of renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change mitigation.