Harnessing Energy Potentials

Kadré Quédraogo

ECOWAS sets up a Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Cape Verde to help meet energy challenges in the region

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Apr. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

DESPITE the region’s huge bio-energy, hydro, solar and wind power potentials, about 52 per cent of West Africa’s estimated 300 million population lack access to electricity supply. This disturbing situation has forced the poor to spend more of their income on low quality energy services while the rural dwellers resort to traditional biomass to meet their energy needs.

This is why the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has set up the three-year-old Cape Verde-based ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, ECREEE, to help meet the energy challenges of the region. ECOWAS has also adopted two sectoral policies on renewable energy and energy efficiency, at the eleventh ECOWAS energy ministerial meeting which held in Accra, Ghana, in October 2012, both of which serve to guide the region’s efforts to employ sustainable energy technologies.

Wind energy farm
Wind energy farm

They are expected to profoundly inspire the region’s energy sector and contribute to significant improvements between 2020 and 2030. There is also the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy, EREP, which is expected to specifically increase the share of renewable energy, excluding large hydro, in the region’s overall electricity mix from the current rate of zero percent to at least 10 percent by 2020 and 19 percent by 2030.

Under it, the share of the rural population served by renewable energy-based mini-grids and stand-alone system, which is under 1 percent, is expected to increase to 22 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2030. On the other hand, the ECOWAS Energy Efficiency Policy, EEEP, is designed to implement measures that free 2000 MW of power generation capacity and, in the long term, more than double the annual improvement in energy efficiency. This will enable the EEEP to attain levels comparable to those of world leaders thereby resulting in a 4 per cent annual decrease in the quantum of electricity needed to produce a certain amount of goods.

Mahama Kappiah, executive director of ECREEE, said “ECOWAS is working with stakeholders to improve access to energy in the region, which is currently under 50 percent.  Kappiah told visiting Ouédraogo Kadre Desire, president of ECOWAS Commission, in Praia, March 27, that the centre has a lot of challenges including losing an average of between 15 and 40 per cent of the energy it generates through its distribution system.

He, however, said that the Centre has launched an electricity initiative to address the challenges. According to him, the three-year-old ECREEE was set up to help address the twin issues of energy efficiency and renewable energy. In order to achieve these objectives, five priority regional flagship energy efficiency initiatives were launched to phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs by 2020; reduce average losses in electricity distribution from the current level of between 15 and 40 percent to the world standard level of 7 percent by 2020. Other objectives are to achieve universal access to safe, clean, affordable, efficient and sustainable cooking energy for the entire population of ECOWAS by 2030; establish and adopt initial region-wide standards and labels for major energy equipment by the end 2014; and create instruments for financing sustainable energy, including carbon finance by the end of 2013.

Mahama Kappiah
Mahama Kappiah

Responding, Ouédraogo, who was also in Cape Verde for the meeting of ministers of finance and trade from the regions that have hydropower potentials to generate some 23,000 MW of electricity, with only 16 per cent currently exploited, praised the centre for its achievements since it was officially inaugurated in July 2010. He enjoined it to become a centre of excellence for the region while collaborating with the host government which relies significantly on renewable sources to meet its energy needs.

He also commended the Centre for its visible leadership in the promotion of sustainable energy solutions in the region and its recent nomination by the ECOWAS Energy Ministers as the implementation agency for the Sustainable Energy for All, SE4All, Initiative in West Africa.

The ECOWAS president later visited the first and the largest solar Photovoltaic V plant built in Cape Verde and Africa in general spread over 13 hectares with a capacity of 4.4MW and producing 20 MWh of electricity a day and the West Africa’s largest wind farm in Africa located in Santiago Island. The farm accounts for 9.4 MW of the country’s energy generation and a part of the 25.5 MW wind project is distributed across  three of the country’s  islands – Sal, Sao Vicente, and Boavista under a Public Private Partnership, PPP.

He was informed that, based on these projects, Cape Verde had already attained its target of generating 25 percent of its overall electricity mix from renewable energy and was on track to reach 50 percent by 2020. This is in line with the government’s desire to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels through increased energy production from renewable energy resources.

Earlier, the president had visited the West African Institute, WAI, set up by the region to undertake researches on integration, and challenged the staff to elevate the institute to a centre of excellence on various integration-related issues.

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