The European Union has launched the 'EU Energy initiative', designed to provide technology, know how and capital to the two billion people in the world who are 'energy poor'. The intention is to lift people out of poverty and protect the environment at the same time. The initiative has been established in collaboration with the private sector, financing institutions and civil society. Some 17 developing countries, two regional organisations and several private sector and civil society organisations have already associated themselves with the initiative. EU Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Poul Nielson, explained how the initiative could benefit developing countries. 'Africa's energy consumption is largely based on fuel wood, collected by hand and transported over increasing distances. This adds to deforestation, desertification, indoor air pollution and poverty. Unless cost efficient and more environmentally friendly alternatives are developed, energy will be a major brake on economic growth and sustainable development in Africa.' The European Commission already provides 700 million euro a year in energy related development assistance to developing countries.