6 July 2010A new regional centre to help develop the renewable energy potential for West Africa opened today in Cape Verde, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which is supporting the facility, said. A new regional centre to help develop the renewable energy potential for West Africa opened today in Cape Verde, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which is supporting the facility, said.The Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), a specialized agency of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is based in Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. It is supported by UNIDO and the Governments of Austria, Cape Verde and Spain.It will help develop renewable energy and energy efficiency markets in West Africa, formulate policy, build capacity and quality assurance mechanisms, as well design financing plans. The centre will also implement demonstration projects with potential for regional scaling up.“The current energy systems in the ECOWAS region are failing to support the growth prospects of the over 262 million inhabitants, especially the needs of the poor. The creation of ECREEE is a central milestone in efforts to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and services in the region,” said Yoshiteru Uramoto, Deputy to UNIDO’s Director-General.“Investing in renewable energy systems and introducing energy efficient technologies will contribute to the region’s economic and social development without harming the environment,” he added.It is estimated that a total of 23,000 megawatts of large and small hydroelectric potential is concentrated in five ECOWAS member States, of which only 16 per cent has been exploited.Traditional biomass is already the main source of energy for the poor majority and accounts for 80 per cent of total energy consumed for domestic purposes. There are also considerable wind, tidal, ocean thermal and wave energy resources available. The region has vast solar energy potential.UNIDO has a number of projects in Africa where renewable energy sources like small hydro, biomass gasification, wind energy, solar thermal and photovoltaic energy are used to promote the development of small industries, particularly in rural areas, that contribute to growth and poverty reduction. The agency has also developed an energy programme for 18 countries in West Africa, including all ECOWAS member States, funded by the Global Environment Facility. ECREEE will become the main implementing agency of the $150 million programme that will focus on the energy access agenda and energy efficiency in key sectors of the economy.