On 21 October 2020, the Climate Parliament and the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) co-organised a virtual parliamentary roundtable on large-scale renewable energy in East Africa. This event was supported by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and co-sponsored by the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). Dr. Mackay Okure, interim Executive Director of the East African Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy and Efficiency (EACREEE) and Mr. Antonio Passero, sub-Saharan Region Programme Manager of RES4Africa, outlined initiatives to scale up the development of renewable energy in East Africa. Parliamentarians from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe contributed to the discussion.
Dr. Okure emphasised the need to achieve universal access to clean energy in the East African Community (EAC) region. The EAC region has great potential for development in renewable energy resources. However, infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and fiscal incentives will need to be developed to facilitate the transition to renewable energy. There is still a high reliance in the region on traditional biomass (over 90% of the population), electricity access is below the average for sub-Saharan Africa, and there is increasing demand for transport fuel for private cars due to the inefficiency of public transport. The EACREE’s mission is to increase access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services, to enhance energy security and to address the negative externalities of the energy system (for example, local pollution and GHG emissions). It will do this by incentivising both renewable energy and energy efficiency markets. EACREE established an ambitious strategic priorities area plan for 2020-2024. These priorities include the acceleration of the adoption of clean and sustainable cooking and heating, the improvement of energy efficiency in building, investment into clean energy mini-grids, the promotion of utility-scale and distributed grid connectors, and enhancing women and youth entrepreneurship.
Mr. Passero presented how the RES4Africa Foundation helps to promote investment into renewable energy in Africa. Despite Africa’s potential for renewables, there are important barriers to investment. Existing renewable energy installations in Africa amount to 58 GW, only 2% of the world’s total. RES4Africa’s mission is to create an environment in which renewable energy investments into African countries can meet local energy needs. As a private sector and member-driven organisation, RES4Africa functions as a bridge between its members and partners, enabling an exchange of perspectives, initiatives and expertise. In addition, it provides technical support, market intelligence, capacity building and training programmes. Mr. Passero presented the renewAfrica programme, an initiative driven by a coalition of EU stakeholders across the renewable energy value chain. It aims to support European investment into Africa, in order to accelerate the continent's transition to sustainable energy.
In the discussion that followed, parliamentarians emphasised the need to scale up the use of renewable energy in Africa. They welcomed the initiatives outlined in the presentations, but outlined challenges to their successful implementation. Fiscal incentives, such as tax exemptions, will assist in attracting investments from foreign bodies, as well as from the domestic private sector, they said. Finally, parliamentarians emphasised that there is a general lack of knowledge of the economic benefits of the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. An increase in knowledge will help advance political will across Africa, and will assist in business and community development.