West African Countries Advocate for Clean Energy Powered Mini-Grids

Smart Villages Initiative Workshop in Progress

Cote d’Ivoire – An energy workshop held in Abidjan and organised by the Smart Villages Initiative, the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), and the European Union Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEIPDF) concluded with a resolution that clean energy-powered mini-grids (CMEGs) are an important instrument for achieving universal access to electricity. 

The workshop which appeared to set the ball rolling on wider capacity-building engagements on CEMGs in the ECOWAS region noted that the majority of the West African population live in remote rural areas where CEMGs can be the best solution to lack of power.

A statement issued at the end of the workshop revealed that an ambitious target of building 128,000 CEMGs in West Africa by 2030 had been set. The statement also mentioned another upcoming regional workshop as well as the provision of high-quality technical assistance for the improvement of the enabling environment.

Smart Villages Initiative, which has held similar workshops around the world, made contributions at the workshop, sharing conclusions and recommendations from its West African engagements held over the last twelve months, with emphasis on SDG7 and energy-related access issues, such as the water-food-energy connection.

Dr. John Holmes, Co-Leader of the Smart Villages Initiative explained, “The workshop was highly productive and we would like to thank our partners ECREEE and EUEI PDF. There is a growing amount of cooperation across ECOWAS already on Distributed Renewable Energy issues. However, such is the scale of the challenge and the ambitious targets set that we concluded several issues must be urgently addressed. Chief amongst these is finance and how to create public-private partnerships with a clear model and rate of return for potential investors. We would also like to highlight the need for equipment and operating standards as well as appropriate tariffs as key to creating a sustainable operating environment.”

He also pointed out that Smart Villages Initiative was not advocating a “one-size fits all” top-down approach, since their work in ECOWAS has reinforced one of their main overall findings – namely that local conditions vary enormously and must be taken into account. “The lessons from this workshop will now be incorporated into our final reports and policy briefs to be released in the near future,” Dr Holmes added.

Commenting on the success of the workshop ECREEE’s Executive Director, Mr Mahama Kappiah said that the workshop was a wonderful example of fruitful and constructive partnership among different stakeholders to support the tremendous efforts going on in each ECOWAS Member State.

“With budgetary constraints limiting efforts to extend on-grid service to some parts of the region, clean energy mini-grids are an excellent solution and they represent the least-cost option for thousands of villages in rural areas. Nevertheless, enabling the environment for investment is essential to achieve the ambitious targets on access, and ECREEE and its partners are ready to continue to support the countries in their efforts to improve it,” Kappiah added.

Mr Kappiah also noted that the issue of tariff regulation is always at the centre of electric power debates and that ECREEE was happy to have hosted on the last day of the conference the first regional stakeholder workshop on the Renewable Energy Tariff Toolbox that they are jointly developing together with EUEI PDF.

Kappiah believes that the instrument could be useful for ECOWAS countries to accelerate their on-going efforts to promote renewable energy.