There are still over 600 million people who do not have electricity in Africa. This means there is a significant residential and productive market demand for affordable, reliable and clean energy solutions. Res 4 Africa is developing renewable energy to reach these people. Roberto Vigotti is General Secretary of RES4 Africa. He graduated in 1971 with a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Pisa, and joined Enel’s R&D Division in 1974, becoming involved in the co-ordination of research and demonstration programs in the field of renewable energy. From 2001 to 2005 he worked as a senior strategy advisor in the Business Development of Enel Green Power and in the International Department of Enel. He is also the Coordinator of the Renewable Industry Advisory Board (RIAB) of the International Energy Agency (IEA). He sat down with Capital to talk about what Res 4 Africa does and the study conducted on renewable energy in Ethiopia
Capital: Tell us about RES4 Africa.
Roberto Vigotti: RES4 Africa was initiated as a leader platform for public -private dialogue. It was founded in 2012 to invest in the vast renewable energy potential related to the growing energy demand. RES4 Africa works to develop enabling environments in emerging markets by focusing on three core activities. These are: fostering dialogue and strategic partnerships, sharing knowledge and expertise and building capacity and skills. It also works on streams touching upon all the most relevant themes from business and financing models to policy and regulations, socio-economic benefits, technical feasibility, innovation and sustainability.
Capital: What are your thoughts about your company’s journey so far?
Vigotti: This is my journey and my association’s which became a foundation at a higher level. Many of my members are actually businesspeople including Siemens who is a giant in wind energy and Enel, a green power giant in wind power to mention some. So they support me and my people because they think a broader approach will create business and convincing the government to rely on private sector investors can help make renewable energy alternatives a reality.
Consultants and players in academia are working hard to convince the main actors to accelerate the advent of renewable energy in Africa. We are talking with many countries and hopefully it will soon become a reality.
Capital: Do you think Ethiopia is ready to deploy alternative energy resources?
Vigotti: The Ethiopian Ministry of Electricity, Water and Irrigation and other stakeholders have shown strong support. That is why Ethiopia is one of the countries we prefer to work in. We were here two years ago, and now we are coming back for an in-depth discussion on some of the main topics with the Ethiopian government and to reinforce our cooperation with Ethiopia.
Capital: What do think Ethiopian government should do to attract investors in this area?
Vigotti: It is simple. The money is available, a lot of money, but Ethiopia should create the frame to attract investor companies like Siemens, Enel and others who are ready to invest. Even today, these companies invest in more than 27 countries over the world. The Ethiopian government at least should create the minimum condition for risk; otherwise the money will go somewhere else. Because there are other opportunities to invert your capital, you know today, the market is global; investors are always looking forward to more pleasant conditions, they don’t want barriers.
Ethiopia will absolutely benefit from power export as the country is blessed in potential resources of renewable energy alternatives (hydro, wind, geothermal and solar); so partnering with investors is what the order of the day entails.
Capital: What does the study indicate about Ethiopia’s renewable energy resources?
Vigotti: Ethiopia is among a few countries in the world that generate more than 90% of their electricity from renewable energy sources.
The study was done with support from RES4 Africa and the Enel Foundation and by taking input data from the local EEP. It will help determine how much renewable energy can be fed into the national grid and the country’s potential generating capacity of renewable energy; to the extent of benefiting from exporting renewable energy to neighboring countries.
Capital: How are you approaching the Ethiopian government?
Vigotti: Since we launched Res4 Africa in 2016, our relationship with Ethiopia has been strong and ongoing, we are now returning for the B2G (business to government workshop) and with an impressive publication to assist the Ethiopian government in their transition to renewable energy.
Our approach is win-win by convincing actors in energy sector to work with government who wants to work with us in order to have access to finance to achieve development.
Capital: What have you done so far?
Vigotti: Since 2012, RES4 Africa has worked to promote the deployment of renewable energy solutions in the southern Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa. So far we are conducting studies, organizing business to government dialogues, executive seminars with local stakeholders with partners like the AU, and UN.
Capital: Anything to add?
Vigotti: I am glad to announce that we will hold our annual conference here in Addis Ababa in June. I believe it is a strong signal of cooperation and collaboration with our African Partners.