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A project factory to achieve SDG 7 – among others

Last autumn, LGI was in Kigali, Rwanda, on the occasion of the second LEAP-RE Stakeholder Forum. With more than 400 participants both offline and online, the event served as an amazing platform to connect, share, and kindle the collective passion of the LEAP-RE Community for advancing renewable energy research and innovation at the service of energy access.

While climate change hits the planet’s poorest countries the hardest and lack of energy access in many regions remains concerning, the Forum was the opportunity to take stock of the progress happening in the projects funded under the LEAP-RE Programme, which all contribute to addressing SDG7, “Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.

In Kigali, Vincent Chauvet, LGI’s CEO and coordinator of LEAP-RE said, “We are three years into LEAP-RE now. What is really amazing is that we acted like a project factory with the emergence and implementation of many innovative ideas. We have 31 research and innovation projects ranging from basic concepts all the way to mature innovation, across the board of sustainable energy technologies for Europe and Africa. All these projects are now mingling, exchanging practices, and defining the next steps to achieve long lasting impact. They all have a tremendous potential to make a difference on energy access, decarbonisation and energy security, especially in Africa. Significant co-benefits are expected as well, such as when clean cooking helps reduce deforestation, empower women by avoiding daily wood collection, and improve air quality.

The Forum witnessed the launch of 10 projects, D3T4H2S, MIDINA, OPTIMG, RCLIB, REPTES, SHE, SmartAPV-Fruit, SWITCH, BIOTHEREP and Vil2Bio, which were selected to join the LEAP-RE Portfolio in Spring 2023 as part of the second LEAP-RE Call for Research and Innovation projects. Beyond those, the new projects cover some of the LEAP-RE thematic priorities, including the water-energy-food nexus, agrivoltaic solutions, green hydrogen, mini and micro-grids digitalisation, and biomass transformation. These projects are now already at work. Project REPTES, for instance, develops a proof of concept of innovative multigeneration/storage systems based on renewable energy sources and has already successfully reached its first milestone, having gathered real-life data and case studies on selected farms in the Eruemukohwarien and Ododegho communities in Delta State, Nigeria, and Benguerir, Morocco.

Significant progress in the LEAP-RE portfolio of projects

In addition to these recent projects, 21 research and innovation projects are ongoing as part of the LEAP-RE Portfolio, at different stages of completion and with very promising activities and results.

The Geothermal Atlas for Africa project, for instance, aims to develop sustainable geothermal energy production in Eastern Africa, and demonstrates the value of AU-EU cooperation. As the project progresses, a unique collaboration has grown between the University of Florence (Italy) and Strathmore University (Kenya), who work together on several key aspects of the project. The two universities are making big strides in conducting a Life Cycle Assessment for African geothermal power plants, focusing on Kenya’s Olkaria pioneering geothermal field, from construction to end-of-life, including GHG emissions, energy production, and maintenance.

Project LEOPARD, which develops micro-grid technology for a widespread use of renewable energy sources in Africa is another example. The project has successfully installed two pilot installations in Benin and now shares its knowledge of mini-grid deployment in Africa with five online training courses planned in 2024.

All across LEAP-RE thematic priorities, projects are making progress. Other examples include exploration campaigns for natural hydrogen in South Africa and Morocco by project HyAfrica, the development of an off-grid and mobile charger for electric vehicles developed as part of the SolChargE project, of a system to produce off the grid clean water using renewable energy sources by project LEDSOL, or solar cookers by projects PURAMS and SoCoNexGen, just to name a few.

Looking ahead

LEAP-RE is entering its final two years. With projects delivering research results, in some cases with high maturity in terms of technology, demonstration is happening on the ground. Most projects directly involve local communities, a key for adoption of innovative technologies.

“The next step is to take research results to real life. LEAP-RE is not a standard research project: it is a programme with a vision to have an impact on energy security and on low-carbon energy, especially in Africa. That means we will assess research results from the point of view of their market readiness, but also their social acceptance, and their investor readiness to go to the next level,” said Chauvet.