“Africa doesn’t need Europe’s help, it needs partnership,” says David Otieno, head of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) Secretariat.
His statement best summarises the spirit of the Second Stakeholder Forum which brought together more than 400 participants from Europe and Africa last month – ranging from ministers and commissioners to international organisations, the private sector, academia and civil society – to discuss renewable energy investments and innovations between the two trading blocs.
Leaders from both continents applauded the progress made towards the 2020 AEEP targets. Although they agreed more time is needed, plans to extend access to modern and sustainable energy supplies to at least half of the continent’s 1.1 billion people, to increase the use of renewable energy on the continent, and to improve energy security, are still afoot.
Africa’s economy is growing currently at an average rate of 3 per cent per year and in the last decade, six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the continent’s power supply is not keeping pace.
As Jacques Moulot, chief energy specialist at the African Development Bank, points out, without a steady energy supply, real economic grow on the continent is impossible. “Energy is to economy what blood is to people,” he highlighted in his speech.
So what part can European Union policies play in plugging the energy deficit?
Renewables – the solution to energy poverty?
At present, over 600 million people lack access to electricity on the continent. The situation is particularly critical in the central region where less than 10 per cent of the population in countries like South Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic have access to electricity.
As a starting point, both African and European ministers agree that renewable energy systems – such as solar, wind, biomass and geothermal power – must play a crucial role in contributing towards universal and affordable energy access. This is already happening – the Forum detailed 58 joint initiatives which support renewable energy developments on the continent with EU funding and technical assistance.
“Renewable energy resources in Africa offers opportunities to not only fulfil the region’s energy needs, but also tap into the European market, with its energy bill of 1 billion euros a day,” Dr. Elham Ibrahim, the African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, told Equal Times.
Dr. Michael J. Saulo, of the Technical University of Mombasa, Kenya agrees: “Africa needs Europe and Europe needs Africa. Europe has the know-how and the private investment, Africa has a vast potential for renewables. All factors converge together.”
Analysts are calling on both partners to do more to attract the private sector, but a lack of policy and regulatory coherence as well as regional integration is a major obstacle to investment.
Yofi Grant, head of Databank, a Ghanaian private investment fund, agrees that “the private sector in sub-Saharan Africa is growing faster than in any other region of the world,” and yet investors are still failing to get on-board with big development projects.
“The African private sector and foreign investors must be more proactive and get involved with the development of the continent. This way, joint policies can be launched without fear of duplication,” he told Equal Times.
Top of the agenda
Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) intends to invest between 2.5 and 2.7 billion euros on energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa. “Energy access is at the top of our agenda and Africa is in the driving seat of this transition,” said DG-DEVCO’s deputy head of unit, Felice Zaccheo.
Several financial mechanisms have been designed to combine public funding with private, commercial and bank funds, managed by the African Investment Facility – a financial mechanism that combines EU grants with other resources such as development loans to foster investments which will have a positive socio-economic impact. The Electrification Financing Initative, a project that supports electrification investments in rural areas, is just one example.
Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) announced Karl Bremer Office Block in Bellville, Cape Town, is the first project to achieve a Socio-Economic Category (SEC) Pilot rating in Africa as part of its 5-Star Green Star SA rating, achieved at the same time. The office block is a project of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works.
The Socio-Economic Category Pilot is a world-first for rating tools. The GBCSA has taken the lead in developing a set of socio-economic criteria for green building rating tools. Simultaneously it has developed an International Socio-Economic Framework for the World Green Building Council, which can be used by other green building councils to apply to their rating tools.
Socio-economic factors are particularly relevant in developing countries such as South Africa, and extend green buildings to encompass not just environmental sustainability but also socio-economic sustainability.
The Socio-Economic Category allows the socio-economic achievements of new buildings and major retrofits, new buildings and major retrofits to be recognised and rewarded under Green Star SA tools. It is a separate optional category for which projects can be rated alongside their standard Green Star SA certifications. The development of the rating tool category was sponsored by Old Mutual Property. The socio-economic category is in its pilot phase and being tested before it is converted into a ‘version one’ rating tool category.
Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA, says: “Our property sector is truly becoming a growing force for good in South Africa, not only for the environment but also for people and business too. Societal challenges such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education and skills, and health can all be addressed, at least to some degree, through the way we design, build and operate buildings.”
He adds: “We encourage property owners, developers and designers to use the Socio-Economic Category to assess, improve and certify their project’s socio-economic features. Social and economic factors are important to address broader sustainability issues in our communities and businesses.”
The design for the Karl Bremer Office Block has achieved a 5-Star Green Star SA Office V1 Design rating. It is on the Karl Bremer Hospital site, on the corner of Mike Pienaar Boulevard and Frans Conradie Avenue. The Department of Transport and Public Works, Provincial Government Western Cape owns the building under construction, which will be occupied by the provincial Department of Health.
The Green Star SA Accredited Professional on the project is Nick Gorrie from Agama. He says: “Karl Bremer Office Block is developing into an exciting and innovative project. On one hand, there are multiple innovations and sustainable designs that have been incorporated into the base building. On the other hand the entire Project Team is dedicated to achieving a Socio-Economic Category rating. It has been a challenging project so far but, with the commitment and drive of the whole team, it is aiming for a positive result.” A building that previously stood on the site was demolished and the new offices are under construction for completion in mid-2016.
The new building is designed to have a footprint of 1,927m2 and gross floor area of 7,520m2 on a site area of 14,046m2. It’s landscaped area, including a 98m2 roof garden, covers 4,761m2, or 32% of its total site area. It comprises a north and south wing, connected by a common core, with a single security-controlled access point. It has a basement, as well as offices and meeting rooms on its ground to fifth floors, and a mechanical plant on its roof.
Head of Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, Jacqui Gooch, says the building fits in with the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green initiative, launched on World Environment Day 2012. Gooch explains 110% Green calls for a paradigm shift to connect environmental preservation and economic growth. She adds it aims to be a catalyst to build a critical mass of activity that puts the Western Cape well on the road to becoming Africa’s Green Economic Hub.
“The Department of Transport and Public Works is 110% committed to ensure the properties we build are in line with the 110% Green Initiative. We aim to provide a platform that stimulates people and organisations to build an innovative and dynamic green economy and this project is an example of our commitment,” says Gooch.
There are seven possible credits for the Socio-Economic Category to recognise achievements across a priority set of factors. They are: employment creation, economic opportunity, skills development and training, community benefit, empowerment, safety and health and – only applicable to multi-unit residential projects – mixed-income housing.
For Karl Bremer Office Block, its employment creation targets at least 10% or more of total labour employed during the construction to comprise of disadvantaged people who are collectively from the target groups of youth, women or disabled people. It will measure this by percentage cost of the contract value.
When it comes to economic opportunity, it targets three main impacts. The first is a minimum contract participation goal of 5% of the total project value on selected contracts to be undertaken by joint-venture partners or sub-contracted to developing contractors that are also beneficiaries of enterprise development support from the main contractor.
The second is a minimum 30%, or 25% of contract value, of the procurement of project-specific goods and services during the construction phase from any SMEs or SMEs that are either black owned or black women owned respectively. Third, the project is targeting a minimum of 70% of the contract value for materials, products and services produced or generated within South Africa.
The project’s skills development target is to be compliant with Construction Industry Development Board Standards of Developing Skills through Infrastructure Projects. It aims to do this by providing different types of workplace opportunities and mentorships for learning and skills development over the project period, which lead to recognised qualifications.
For safety and health, the project aims to improve the primary health of construction workers and promote better safety practices. Besides standard construction regulations, the project’s contractor will have to conduct full medical screening tests and basic health awareness programmes for all construction-related employees. The Karl Bremer Office Block design team also conducted Hazardous Identification Risk Assessments of their designs.
As the starting point for its positive impacts, the project’s design delivers green benefits that are good for the environment. These include zero discharge to sewer through a blackwater treatment plant and re-use of treated blackwater for supply to HVAC cooling towers. It will also have zero storm water discharge to municipal storm water infrastructure through multiple Bioretention areas.
Wilkinson says, “We applaud the Karl Bremer Office Block development team for committing the project to the Socio-Economic Category Pilot and achieving the first pilot project certification. Projects such as this are set to have a hugely positive impact in South Africa.” Wilkinson adds the GBCSA hopes to issue many Socio-Economic Category certifications in the future. “We are confident the Socio-Economic Category will not only acknowledge leadership in social and economic upliftment but also inspire more and more positive socio-economic impacts and benefits in the property sector.”
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