| Boiling Point No. 29 - December 1992 |
Summary of Report of the African Energy Experts Meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 18th May 1992
Biomass dominates the energy sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. For many African countries, it accounts for 50% to 90% of their total national energy supply. Although biomass can be an environmentally-sound source of energy for the region, current practices of biomass production, transformation and end-uses are unsustainable and have adverse effects on Africa's environment.
As a consequence of over-dependence on biomass in its traditional form, Sub-Saharan Africa's per capita annual consumption of modem forms of energy is less than half the average of developing countries. Significant disparities exist within countries between the under-privileged rural and urban poor and the higher income groups.
More alarming for most countries, per capita modern energy consumption has been declining over the last 10 years and is set to decline even further as population continues to increase and electricity generation continues to show a downward trend.
The concern over environmental problems, which are, in the main, long-term issues, has to compete with severe short-term problems such as debilitating economic decline and concomitant political instability and famine that threaten the region's survival.
The wide-scale use of fuelwood in Africa is contributing to deforestation and soil erosion. As population growth continues to surpass increases in modem energy supplies, the demand for biomass supplies will continue to increase, placing funkier pressure on the natural resource base. The continued use of biomass in inefficient stoves in poorly ventilated surroundings exposes the users (usually women and children) to high levels of indoor air pollution.
The mainstream view among the scientific community indicates that increased emission of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous-oxide and CFCs) would lead to a rise in global temperature beyond normal levels.
Recent findings indicate that Africa is not yet a net contributor to the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, the increased concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a trans-boundary problem with worldwide negative consequences.
A significant amount of Africa's renewable energy resources such as solar and wind are not yet exploited. Reserves of less-polluting fossil fuels such as natural gas remain unutilized. About one fifth of the world's tropical moist forests and a third of its tropical grasslands are in Africa, and can provide a sustainable source of modem energy while acting as an important carbon sink. Many technologies and approaches exist which can be used to exploit these energy resources in a manner that minimize the damage to the environment.
Therefore, a new energy strategy for development which makes frugal use of the region's limited financial resources and minimizes the negative environmental impacts of energy generation and use is urgently needed. This strategy would include the following:
1. Policy instruments, institutions and incorporation of environmental costing.
2. Mobilisation of financial resources.
3. Management, training and technology acquisition.
4. Energy efficiency.
5. Increased supply of environmentally-benign modem fuels and energy technologies.
Increased use of policy research analysis and project implementation through greater recourse to Universities, NGOs, the private sector and regional research networks such as the AFREPREN (African Energy Policy Research Network) would enable Governments to focus on their central functions of regulation, evaluation and monitoring.
Formulation of simple and transparent regulatory and fiscal measures and decisions that are commensurate with the enforcement and monitoring capacity of local institutions is needed. These measures should be based on realistic and technically proven analysis. Whenever possible, participation of concerned stakeholders (energy producers, distributors and users) should be maximised.
Establishment of appropriate pricing schemes would allow the full recovery of the cost of energy generation and distribution and create a favourable climate for investment in the energy sector. Environmental impact assessments should be incorporated in all major energy projects.
Formal and on-the job training should be provided for all levels of personnel in energy agencies to ensure professional operation and management of national energy systems. Training courses should be based on identified local needs and geared towards the creation and continuous replenishment of a large pool of energy professionals, thus overcoming the problems of attrition and high staff turnover.
Use of the substantial local skills that exist in the region to develop and implement appropriate energy policy measures should be maximised.
Regional and international technical exchange programmes would help to overcome lack of skills at national level. Special attention should be given to networking and training within Sub-Saharan Africa.
R & D efforts need support in energy efficiency improvement and to establish mechanisms for accessing information on available energy technologies such as improved cookstoves, efficient electrical motors, and energy conscious architecture.
Governments should promote regional co-operation in energy resource assessment, development and distribution. This would attract local and foreign investment end facilitate cost-effective exploitation of the continent's vast energy resources.
Ways should be found to encourage of more efficient use of biomass in households and small and medium scale industries in the rural and urban areas. The Kenyan experience in the development and wide-scale dissemination of energy-efficient cookstoves for households and institutions provides a good example.
Environmentally-benign and renewable sources of energy such as wind, biogas, hydro and solar need to be researched. In addition, less polluring fossil fuels such as natural gas should receive priority attention. Preference should be given to those options with the highest potential for income generation and employment creation.
Institutions should be established in the government, non-govemment and private sectors dedicated to the development and promotion of new and renewable sources of energy and to controlling pollutants emitted during the production and use of energy.
Editor's Note: A publication with the same title has been produced by AFREPREN, Jan 1992 pp29 and is available from Stephen Karekezi, AFREPREN, P.O. Box 30979, Nairobi, Kenya, Fax: 254 2 5614641740524.