The challenges of energy across the region – which sadly affect women more than men – are not insurmountable if proper strategies are laid down and supported fully by the partner states.
The East African Community can support the work of EACREE by sourcing for funds to institutionalise the centre, which was the initial plan. Currently, EACREE is hosted by the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) at Makerere University in Uganda, as a Centre of Excellence.
In all the six partner states, the challenges of energy access rates, expensive electricity, and poor cooking solutions cut across the board. Between 2010 and 2040, it is estimated that Africa’s energy demand will have grown by 85 per cent.
While new power generation and associated infrastructure are critical to bridging the gap between energy supply and demand, the role of energy efficiency as a least-cost energy resource is critical to reducing overall demand.
The region should focus more on looking for ways of increasing energy efficiency, which will go a long way in reducing the need for expensive peak capacity, and allowing electricity supply to be expanded to meet increasing demand in a timely, low-cost, and sustainable way.
It is commendable that most partner states have in the recent past expanded access to electricity, especially in rural areas and slums. A lot still needs to be done, however, and marginalised areas are yet to have the privilege of electricity connection. Still, the cost of electricity is unaffordable for most people due to high connection and consumption charges.
Instituting cost-reflective tariffs with lifeline tariffs for the poor will help ensure that power utilities have a sustainable business model and that vulnerable populations retain access to electricity.
Alternative sources of power from privately -owned diesel generators, which supply electricity, are very expensive electricity and pollute the air.
Still, the limited awareness of the benefits provided by energy efficiency and low understanding of energy efficiency as an energy resource continue to hamper regional efforts to establish alternative sources of energy. These challenges continue to perpetuate the supply-side focus for meeting energy needs in the region.
The region is lacking a local, trained workforce to undertake new energy-efficiency projects. It would therefore be prudent for partner states to invest in training and accreditation of a local workforce to ensure that as many researchers as possible undertake projects on alternative energy sources.
Partner states can also ensure that commercial and industrial businesses have access to financing for energy-efficiency projects. Low-cost loans and other financing mechanisms can provide increased opportunities for energy savings projects to be implemented.One of the major challenges to alternative energy sourcing is the poor regulatory environments and governance challenges that undermine the economic incentives to conserve electricity or invest in energy efficiency. This also inhibits a vibrant private-sector energy efficiency market from taking hold.
The region cannot successfully come up with alternative sources of energy without involving the private sector. Bringing them on board through providing incentives is key to ensuring energy reliance across the six partner states.
EACREE should also focus on creating a more gender-inclusive sector. There cannot be any successful venture towards increased access to alternative forms of energy in households without involving women.
The EAC Secretariat must now expedite implementation of the decision of the 33rd meeting of the Council by registering a semi-autonomous EACREEE under CEDAT in Kampala, where it is hosted. This is will go a long way in institutionalising the Centre and hasten implementation of its programmes.
But the governing structure of the centre, which is currently under an executive board, must also be revisited. Moreover, all partner states should now seek to host subsequent EACREE yearly workshops and conferences, with an aim of bringing all the stakeholders from their country on board so as to create an all-inclusive regional approach to solving energy challenges.East African News Agency