Renewable energy technologies as an option for a low-carbon energy future for developing countries:

case examples from Eastern and Southern Africa

Stephen Karekezi, Director

African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN)

Foundation for Woodstove Dissemination (FWD)

Nairobi, Kenya


Global climate change is a contentious issue both within the scientific community and in policy-making circles. Options for mitigating global climate change provide even more fertile ground for contentious debate. While for a number of countries, a certain measure of consensus pertaining to the priority options for addressing the global climate change question at national level may be in sight, international proposals on appropriate and equitable measures for mitigating climate change are still fraught with many uncertainties.

This paper discusses the above concerns from a Southern perspective and examines in greater detail one of the main options for mitigating global climate change - greater use of renewable energy resources. The paper discusses the potential for wider use of renewable energy technologies in Eastern and Southern Africa as well as constraints faced by past and ongoing efforts to promote large-scale dissemination of RETs in the region. Case examples from Eastern and Southern Africa are provided to illustrate the status and prospects of RETs in sub-Saharan Africa and draw lessons for future programmes on RETs.

Although reliable region-wide energy statistics are not readily available, existing estimates of energy use in Eastern and Southern Africa indicate a significant and persistent dependence on traditional biomass energy technologies and limited use of modern renewable energy technologies. This paper argues that sub-Saharan Africa could realize significant local and global environmental benefits if it were to eschew the traditional energy intensive and environmentally-harmful modernization path of the North and invest in modern renewable energy technologies.

In contrast to fossil fuel reserves which are potentially major sources of harmful local and global emissions and tend to be concentrated in a few countries, renewable sources of energy are not only environmentally-benign but are better distributed throughout the region. In addition, capital investments requirements of renewable energy are relatively modest if approached in a modular fashion.

This paper examines the development and role of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa with emphasis on bio-energy, wind energy, solar energy and mini and micro-hydro power. Experiences in the dissemination of renewable energy technologies in the region are reviewed and factors affecting the dissemination of renewable energy technologies are briefly analyzed.

The major problems facing the dissemination of RETs in the region are categorized into the following three clusters:

Note: Background information and data for this paper is sourced from a journal article on the dissemination of RETs in sub-Saharan Africa by S. Karekezi published in the 1994 Annual Review of Energy and Environment journal (Karekezi, S. 1994); a recent joint draft regional report prepared by S. Karekezi and P. Turyareeba under the auspices of an SEI/FWD/AFREPREN RETs Dissemination Study (Karekezi and Turyareeba, 1994); a joint paper on sustainable energy futures for the South co-authored by S. Karekezi and Deborah Wilson-Cornland (Karekezi and Wilson-Cornland, 1994); and, a background brief for a seminar on "Renewable Energy Technologies in sub-Saharan Africa" held at Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, USA on 19 April, 1995 (Karekezi, 1995).

1 Climate change - a new lease of life for renewables?

International interest in renewables have in the past been closely linked to the price of oil. Consequently, the low oil prices that prevailed in the late 1980s and early 1990s has, to a large measure, contributed to lower interest in the further development and dissemination of renewables.

Three important global environment initiatives, however, have provided a new lease of life for renewables. The first was the publication of the widely-acclaimed report of the World Commission on Environment and Development chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Among other important concerns pertaining to environment and development, the report addressed energy-related ecological and developmental issues. The report proposed, inter alia, renewables as one of the primary means for safeguarding the environment as well as responding to the pressing energy needs of the developing world.

The second important event was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. At this Conference, an ambitious environment and development document entitled "Agenda 21" was reviewed by one of the largest gathering of Government Heads of States and, perhaps more importantly, was endorsed by a large number of multi-nationals companies. Agenda 21 sought to operationalize the concept of sustainable development. In addition, the Rio Conference provided the venue for the third important event, the signing of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by 155 Governments (United Nations, 1992). The Convention came into force in early 1994 after ratification by 50 States.

Renewables featured in both Agenda 21 and the Climate Change Convention (United Nations, 1992). Because of the important role of fossil fuels in the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (it is estimated that the energy sector accounts for about half the global emissions of greenhouse gases) and concomitant climate change concerns, renewables are perceived to constitute an important option for mitigating and abating the emissions of greenhouse gases (Socolow, 1992).

The above concern was, however, not initially shared by the South. In contrast to the industrialized world which is worried by the long-term global environmental impact of current patterns of energy production and use, developing countries are largely pre-occupied with the immediate and pressing demands for a minimum level of modern energy services for the majority of their population - many of whom have no electricity and continue to rely on inefficient and environmentally hazardous unprocessed biomass fuels.

Although the contribution of developing countries to global greenhouse emissions (GHGs) is, on a per capita basis, much smaller than that of industrialized countries (some projections, however, indicate a much higher contribution in the future), there is growing realization that the South is likely to be dis-proportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Of particular interest is the dependence of many developing countries on rain-fed agriculture which is believed to be already under threat from unpredictable weather patterns triggered by what appears to be climate change linked to the accumulation of greenhouses gases in atmosphere.

The position of the South on the climate change question is far from unanimous. During the negotiations before and after the signing of the Climate Change Convention, support for renewables was, at best, lukewarm on the part of oil-exporting developing countries such as Saudi Arabia. In spite of the continued divergence on the part of developing countries on how to respond to the climate change challenge, the consensus around the further development of renewables appears to be growing. Engendering a consensus on renewable energy development appears to be less onerous than that faced by the energy efficiency lobby.

In contrast to energy efficiency which could have an immediate impact on fossil fuel exports, the long-term nature of the renewables option would allow a more gradual and less disruptive transition away from dependency on fossil fuels. Engendering support for renewables was, consequently, somewhat less onerous. The consensus is bolstered by mounting evidence indicating that while fossil fuels will, in the long-term, be exhausted or become uncompetitive in cost (as more costly reserves are exploited), renewables constitute a reliable and ecologically sound long-term alternative for virtually all countries of the South including many of the present oil-exporting developing nations which have abundant and unexploited solar, wind and hydro resources.

For example, Africa is estimated to have over 1.1 million gigawatts of exploitable hydro capacity (Johansson et al., 1993); abundant biomass energy potential (Marrison and Larson, 1995); substantial solar potential; and, in some countries, significant wind potential (Karekezi, 1994a). Available estimates of energy use in the Africa, however, indicate limited use of modern renewable energy resources. In spite of some significant efforts to disseminate RETs, the World Energy Council (1992) estimated that in 1990, modern renewable sources of energy accounted for less than 2% of the Africa's primary energy demand (World Energy Council, 1992). While aggregate use of renewables is still relatively low and the track record of past RETs initiatives is patchy, a number of RETs have begun to show signs of success, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa. Of particular interest are the following RETs:

2 Status of renewable energy technologies in Eastern and Southern Africa

2.1 Large-scale biomass utilization

Knowledge of large scale biomass energy systems is not as widespread in Eastern and Southern African countries as that of small systems. Large-scale biomass utilization encompasses: direct combustion for process heat; ethanol production; gasification; heat co-generation; biogas production; and, briquetting. The best known large-scale biomass energy systems with sound economic track records are co-generation using biomass as fuel stock and the production of ethanol as a substitute for petroleum fuel.

Co-generation using bagasse as feedstock to produce both process heat and electricity is a well established technology in the South. As a result of extensive use of co-generation in Mauritius, the country's sugar industry is self-sufficient in electricity and sells excess power to the national grid (Baguant, 1992). In 1989, close to 10% of the country's electricity was generated from bagasse, a by-product of the sugar industry.

A detailed analysis of the co-generation facilities demonstrates that the installed equipment in sugar factories of Mauritius is sufficient to double the current level of electricity generated (ibid). The main hurdle is the unattractive prices provided by the national utility to independent power producers.

Modest capital investments combined with judicious equipment selection, modifications of sugar manufacturing processes and proper planning could yield a 13-fold increase in the amount of electricity generated by sugar factories and sold to the national Mauritian power utility (ibid).

Ethanol programmes that produce a blend of ethanol and gasoline (gasohol) for use in existing fleets of motor vehicles have been implemented in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Available evidence indicates that these programmes have registered important economic benefits.

The Zimbabwe alcohol programme is capable of producing about 40 million liters and there are plans to increase annual output to 50 million liters (Scurlock and Hall, 1991). In the Zimbabwe ethanol programme, 60% of the whole plant was locally produced and significant staff development took place (Scurlock et al., 1991). The plant has been in operation for 14 years with few maintenance problems (World Resources Institute, 1994).

The total investment cost of Kenya's ethanol plant is estimated to be US $ 15 million. Plant production averages about 45,000 liters per day (Baraka, 1991). The plant uses surplus molasses that were an environmental hazard because of the past practice of dumping surplus molasses in a nearby river. The ethanol is blended with gasoline at a ratio of 1:9.

Since it was commissioned, Kenya's ethanol programme has continued to register annual losses mainly due to low Government-controlled retail prices; inadequate plant maintenance and operation; resistance from local subsidiaries of multinational oil companies; and, unfavorable exchange rate which has significantly increased the local cost of servicing the loan that financed the establishment of the plant. In an attempt to break even, the plant has had to export 13.3 million liters of crude ethanol (Kenya Times, 1991). The plant has, however, generated an estimated 1,000 rural jobs (Baraka, 1991).

The presence of a number of cane processing industries in eastern and southern Africa indicate significant potential for expanded ethanol production and co-generation (Dutkiewicz and Gielink, 1991, 1992; Eberhard and Williams, 1988; Scurlock and Hall, 1991; Baraka, 1991). The long-term prospects of widespread use of ethanol, however, are unclear because of uncertainties pertaining to the performance of the cane sugar industry and the world market for molasses (Karekezi, 1994).

The development of large scale anaerobic digestion (popularly known as biogas) technology in the region is still embryonic, but the potential is promising. Tapping of methane can also prevent air pollution; mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; and, abate the hazard of fire and explosions arising from accidental ignition of methane leakages. A recent initiative to tap energy from waste land fills, is the US $ 2.5 million Global Environment Facility (GEF)-financed project in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania which will utilize an estimated 23,000 m3 of methane generated by the process of anaerobic digestion (Global Environment Facility, 1993).

Large-scale replication of the pilot GEF Tanzania biogas project could result in the generation of electricity equivalent to over 10% of the Tanzania's total electricity generating capacity (Global Environment Facility, 1993).

The main limitations to wider adoption of large-scale biogas technology are both institutional and economic. Establishing a self-sustaining institutional system that can collect and process animal dung or urban waste; and, effectively market the generated biogas fuel is a surprisingly complex activity that calls for sophisticated organizational capability and initiative (Karekezi, 1994).

2.2 Small-scale bio-energy technologies

In terms of energy used per system, small-scale traditional bio-energy systems appear marginal but their importance lies in the very large number of end-users that these systems serve. Bio-fuelled cookstoves meet the bulk of cooking, heating and lighting needs of most of the rural households in developing countries.

Charcoal is an important household fuel and to a lesser extent, industrial fuel. It is mainly used in the urban areas where its ease of storage, high energy content, lower levels of smoke emissions, makes it more attractive than woodfuel (World Bank, 1988). Traditional charcoal production which relies on the traditional and rudimentary earth kiln is considered to be a major contributor to deforestation in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to improve and modernize small-scale biomass energy systems to ensure environmentally sound use of biomass energy constitute an important component of national energy strategies in many sub-Saharan African countries.

In the last 20 years, substantial effort has been directed towards the modernization of small scale biomass energy systems. Two of the most sustained efforts has been the development of an energy efficient charcoal kiln and an environmentally-sound improved cookstove for rural and urban households in sub-Saharan Africa.

Table 1.Estimated number of improved bio-fuelled stoves disseminated in selected sub-Saharan African countries in early 1990s.

Country                                      Number distributed              

Kenya                                              780,000                   
Burkina Faso                                       200,000                   
Niger                                              200,000                   
Tanzania                                            54,000                   
Ethiopia                                            45,000                   
Sudan                                               28,000                   
Uganda                                              25,000                   
Zimbabwe                                            10,880                   

Source: Karekezi and Turyareeba, 1994.

Another small-scale biomass energy technology that has attracted considerable attention over the last three decades is biogas. Conceptually, biogas technology appears deceptively simple and straightforward. The raw material is animal dung, which is plentiful in many rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa; the technology appears not to be overly complicated; and, it requires a relatively limited level of investment. The technical viability of biogas technology has been repeatedly proven in many field tests and pilot projects but numerous problems arose as soon as mass dissemination was attempted.

Table 2.Small and medium-scale biogas units in selected sub-Saharan African countries.

                              No. of small and medium scale digestors < 100  
                                              cubic meters                   

Tanzania                                         > 1,000                     
Burundi                                          >   279                     
Kenya                                            >   140                     
Zimbabwe                                         >   100                     
Lesotho                                          >    40                     
Burkina Faso                                     >    20                     

Source: Ward, 1982; Wauthelet et al., 1989; Traore, 1984; and, Manawanyika, 1992.

First, collection of animal dung turned out to be more problematic than was originally thought, particularly for farmers who did not keep their livestock penned in one location. Secondly, small scale farmers with small herds of livestock were not able to get sufficient feedstock to feed the bio-digestor unit and ensure a steady generation of biogas for lighting and cooking.

Thirdly, the investment cost of even the smallest of the biogas units is prohibitive for most rural households of sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence from the experiences in Eastern and Southern African countries is still limited, but the general consensus is that the larger combined septic tank/biogas units that are run by institutions such as hospitals and schools have proved to be more viable than the small-scale household bio-digestors.

Biomass energy is an important fuel for many small and medium-scale industries in Eastern and Southern Africa. Examples include brick manufacture, lime production, fish smoking, tobacco curing, beer brewing, coffee and tea drying. Many of these industries operate in rural or peri-urban areas, sectors which are poorly covered in official statistics. Consequently, information on this important biomass energy consumption sub-sector is poor.

2.3 Solar photovoltaic technologies

An important driving force to the wide-scale use of PV technology in Eastern and Southern Africa has been a dramatic drop in production costs experienced over the last 20 years. PV costs are expected to fall to US $ 2.00 per Wp by the year 2000.

The production of photovoltaic modules, worldwide, has increased over the past two decades, rising from about 1 MWp in 1976 to over 35 MWp by mid-1988 and 48 MWp in 1990. Although reliable, region-wide data on the dissemination of PV technologies have not yet been compiled, available information for selected countries indicate growing use in Eastern and Southern Africa (Table 3).

Table 3.PV systems in selected sub-Saharan African countries.

Country                  Estimated No. of      Estimated kWp        Year       

Burundi                                1,800                58      1993       
Botswana                             > 2,000                 -      1992       
Kenya                                 20,000             1,000      1993       
Rwanda                                   941                29      1991       
Uganda                                   538               152      1993       
Zambia                                 2,002                 -      1993       
Zimbabwe                               3,000               151      1993       

- Not known or not available.

Sources: Hankins, 1992; Nieuwenhout, 1991; Hankins, 1993; Bachou and Otiti, 1994; Diphaha and Burton; 1993.

One of the main PV initiative in the region is the Zimbabwe GEF-financed decentralized rural electrification programme. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) project is providing US $ 7 million for investment in a revolving fund that will, within five years, supply 25,000 rural homes with modern lighting (Thondhala, 1994). South Africa is also launching a major PV solar lighting initiative aimed at the rural institutional market, namely rural health clinics and schools.

One of the world's largest programme to install photovoltaic refrigerators is in Zaire where 100 refrigerators were installed in clinic and dispensaries countrywide (Durand, 1987). Another country where a major photovoltaic refrigerators programme is under way is Uganda, where UNICEF plans to install about 400 photovoltaic refrigerators (Halliday, 1987).

2.4 Solar thermal technologies

Solar thermal technologies that have been disseminated in developing countries include solar water heaters, solar cookers (Kammen, 1991; 1992), solar stills and solar dryers. With increased efficiency and reduced cost of solar water heaters, small-scale solar water heaters now have a pay-back period of 3 - 5 years (Karekezi and Karottki, 1989). However the diffusion of these systems has in recent years been slower than anticipated. In some developing countries, LPG subsidies make it difficult for solar water heaters to be competitive (Vanderhulst et al., 1990).

In sub-Saharan Africa, not much aggregate data on dissemination of these systems has been gathered (Ward et al., 1984). The data available is from a few country studies. For example, in Botswana, about 8,500 domestic solar water heaters have been installed (Diphaha and Burton, 1993). In Zimbabwe, about 2,000 solar water heaters are in use (Maya, 1989).

In Eastern and Southern Africa, extensive research has been carried out to develop reliable solar dryers. Research projects have been undertaken in Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Mauritius, among other countries for crop drying (Brenndorfer et al., 1985). Solar dryers of different types and designs suitable for use in the region have been developed. Solar dryers that dry agricultural products such as grain, tea leaves and other crops, fish, and also timber (called solar kilns) are available.

In general, research has shown that solar dryers perform well and produce better results than the traditional method of drying crops in the open sun (Wereko-Brobby and Breeze, 1986; Bassey and Schmidt, 1987). Solar dryers can assist in reducing post-harvest losses because dried produce is less susceptible to natural deterioration and insect infestation (Garg, 1990). Existing solar dryers are, however, still too expensive for the average small-scale farmer (Sebbowa, 1987; Brenndorfer et al., 1985). Consequently, only the middle to large-scale farmers can afford them.

2.5 Wind energy technologies

Much of sub-Saharan Africa straddles the tropical equatorial zones of the globe and only in the southern and northern regions overlap with the wind regime of the temperate westerlies (Grubb and Meyer, 1993). Therefore, low wind speeds prevail in many sub-Saharan African countries particularly in land-locked nations (Bhagavan and Karekezi, 1992; Kimani and Nauman, 1993; Dutkiewicz, 1990; UNDP/World Bank, 1982, 1983; Milukas et al., 1984).

In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa has been named as the country with the highest wind potential in the region (Hankins, 1987). For example, wind speeds of 7.2 to 9.7 m/s around Cape Point and Cape Alguhas have been recorded (Diab, 1986).

It is, however, difficult to specify a general mean annual wind speed for South Africa due to great variations within the country (Diab, 1986). Other countries in this region have relatively lower wind speeds (Table 4). Available data indicates that the next highest annual average wind speed in the region is 4 m/s in Djibouti (Milukas et al., 1984).

Largely as a result of low wind speeds, the bulk of wind machines found in Eastern and Southern Africa are used for water pumping (Smalera and Kammen, 1995) rather than electricity generation (Table 4). Wind energy development continues to be hampered by the absence of adequate wind energy resource assessment especially at the micro-level.

Table 4.Wind energy potentials and number of wind pumps and wind generators for selected countries.

Country               Potential      Number of wind        Number of wind      
                        (m/s)             pumps              generators        

Botswana                  3                200                    -            
Burundi                  >6                 -                     -            
Djibouti                  4                 -                     -            
Kenya                     3                272                    3            
Mozambique             0.7-2.6             50                     -            
Namibia                   -              30,000                   -            
Rwanda                    -                 -                     1            
Seychelles           3.62-6.34*             -                     2            
South Africa         7.29-9.7**          100,000                  -            
Sudan                     3                12                     -            
Tanzania                  3                58                     1            
Uganda                    2                 -                     -            
Zambia                   3.5               100                    -            
Zimbabwe                 2.9               650                    -            

* Average wind speed for two seasons

** Highest wind speed recorded

- Not known or not available

Sources: Milukas et al., 1984; World Bank, 1987; Bhagavan and Karekezi, 1992; World Bank, 1988; Dutkiewicz and Gielink, 1992; Ranganathan, 1992; Katihabwa, 1993; Stockholm Environment Institute, 1993a, 1993b; Linden, 1993; Maya and Rudidzo, 1989; BHEL, 1994; Mbewe, 1990; Ward, 1992; Sawe, 1990; Mwandosya and Luhanga, 1993.

The dissemination of wind turbines in the region has been very low which is in part attributed to low wind speeds. Kenya and Rwanda have installed a few wind generators which are connected to the grid (Kenyan Engineer, 1994; UNDP/World Bank, 1982).

Prices for wind pumps in several countries have been estimated to range from US $ 2,500 to US $ 13,000 (Bogash et al., 1992; BHEL, 1994) which limits this technology to large and medium-scale farmers and rural institutions. In spite of these limitations, a number of sub-Saharan African countries have registered some encouraging progress, notably Namibia and South Africa which have disseminated over 30,000 and 100,000 wind machines, respectively (Linden, 1993). Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya have several well established manufacturers of wind pumps (Hankins, 1987). It is estimated that over 90% of the value added of a typical wind pump is now undertaken in the region which demonstrates significant technological capability.

3 Key challenges facing wide-scale adoption of renewable energy technologies in sub-Saharan Africa

As demonstrated by the aforementioned case studies from Eastern and Southern Africa, past bilateral and multilateral energy programmes implemented in sub-Saharan Africa, renewable energy systems were expected to satisfactorily deliver energy services with little attention paid to links with both centralized and traditional energy systems. As a result, current understanding of how stand-alone renewable energy technologies perform is not matched by an adequate appreciation of the enabling energy system environment that is necessary for the successful large-scale application of renewables.

Past attempts at promoting renewables often focused on a specific technology for generating energy whether it be a biogas plant or a wind-pump. Identified technologies were perceived as stand-alone options that excluded other conventional and traditional energy options. Institutional and cultural considerations were often under-estimated. Consequently, potentially attractive opportunities for dual renewable/fossil fuel; dual conventional/traditional energy systems were not fully exploited; and, for harnessing the latent capability of local institutions and cultural relationships were not fully exploited.

The following are problem areas that require immediate attention if renewables are to realize their substantial potential:

3.1 Institutional deficiencies

The enormous leverage and advantages that power utilities enjoy in the region constitutes an important institutional barrier to the dissemination of renewable energy technologies. The "de facto" or "de jure" monopoly on generation, distribution and sale of electricity that the power utilities hold in Eastern and Southern African countries of the region needs to be modified to allow independent power producers to operate.

This monopoly, sometimes enshrined in law, acts a brake to the development and growth of independent power producers and has left many promising co-generation (particularly in the agro-processing industry) unexploited. A number of Eastern and Southern African have begun to address this problem and the legal instruments that would facilitate independent and decentralized electricity generation as well as sale to the grid are beginning to be adopted. For example, Tanzania recently liberalized its power industry and is now actively encouraging independent power producers to generate power as well as distribute electricity. Specific legislation that would promote renewable energy programmes have not yet been adopted widely.

Active support for independent or autonomous rural electrification agencies and encouragement of independent power producers is urgently needed. The new actors are likely to pursue rural electrification and concomitant renewable energy options more vigorously than the existing power utilities. The dispersed and modular nature of renewables is, in many respects, alien to the culture of conventional utilities which are more comfortable with large-scale and centralized projects.

Independent rural electrification agencies and power producers are often well-suited to cope with small-scale, and decentralized renewable energy technologies dissemination programmes that require active collaboration with local manufacturers and end-users. Such agencies would be more willing to undertake the management-intensive task of bundling small, discrete renewable energy projects into large programmes that can be financed by major bilateral and multilateral programmes.

Much of the economic potential for harnessing renewable energy supplies for electricity production lies in remote settings, out of reach of the grid. The modularity and small-scale of renewable supply technologies make them particularly advantageous for remote supply systems. They can be scaled to meet smaller demand requirements than large-scale plants, and expanded as demand grows. They can be installed faster and with lower capital requirements than large-scale plants. They can also be shut down in increments and shipped out for replacement or repair when necessary, without jeopardizing the entire supply system. However, both up-front capital costs and the lack of institutional support systems act as important barriers to local power production at remote sites.

Innovations are needed, both in the form of financing schemes and organizational/management structures. The Stockholm Environment Institute research project, "New approaches to organization and management of rural power supply," initiated in 1993, provides one example of an attempt to address the latter, by organizing village electrification cooperatives in Tanzania (Stockholm Environment Institute, 1993). Much more extensive efforts along this line will be needed if viable village-level remote electrification schemes are to be adopted on a significant scale.

In the case of small-scale power producers willing and able to reliably supply electricity to the grid, the first condition that must be met is the existence of a regulatory environment that recognizes them as legitimate power producers with a right to sell their product at a reasonable price. In most cases, this requires a directive to the utility in question, requiring it to purchase power from such sources and setting price levels based on the utility's marginal cost of supply. This is a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite.

In Mauritius, policy research work undertaken by AFREPREN/FWD indicate that pricing and institutional constraints continue to hamper the generation and sale of electricity from the sugar industry. Electricity purchase prices and other contractual requirements, have posed formidable barriers to potential producers, and only a fraction of the potentially large and lucrative purchasing contracts have actually been signed.

3.2 Pricing distortions

In many Eastern and Southern African countries, Government attempts to provide basic energy services to their people have lead to partial, if not complete, dissociation between the marginal cost of energy supply and energy prices. Such policies have created major barriers to renewables. Subsidies - either directly through pricing (and relative pricing) or in the form of distorted taxes and fees - have affected fuel choices, technology choices and the quantities of total energy demand.

Ironically, experience with such subsidies is that they have not proven effective in providing broad dissemination of energy services to the poor: barriers other than price, such as lack of information, building safety regulations, first-time utility connection fees and prohibitive cost of end-user devices have proven more important in hindering their dissemination (Stockholm Environment Institute, 1994).

High priority should be given to reducing the heavy import and sales taxes imposed on renewable energy equipment that are often higher than those imposed on competing energy systems. For example, cumulative duty (import duties plus various surcharges on components) on renewable energy technologies in Malawi are estimated to be as high as 75%.

In many Eastern and Southern African countries, electricity generation equipment for conventional systems is often imported duty free especially if it is procured in the context of grant and loan bilateral or multilateral agreement programmes. In addition, the pricing structure of conventional energy systems needs to be reviewed to ensure that energy prices reflect long-term marginal costs and, wherever possible, incorporate the environmental cost associated with conventional systems (in the distant future, a carbon tax may be viable). This would help to ensure a level-playing field for renewable energy technologies programmes.

In all cases, taking the first step onto the path of long-term renewable energy development will require the employment of marginal-cost pricing for all conventional energy technologies. Taking this step will be particularly difficult in Eastern and Southern African countries with distorted macro-economic structures and, hence, no real systems for assessing costs, including the long-run marginal cost of energy supply. In some cases, levelling the playing field may also require temporary subsidies to emerging technologies and techniques, aimed at restoring balance previously removed through a long history of market intervention.

3.3 Limited information on renewable energy resource base

Limited access to information on the region's renewables resource base constitute a major barrier to wider use of RETs. This is particularly true of wind and micro and mini-hydro which require micro-level resource data. Equally important for both hydro and biomass energy technologies is the availability of comparative time series on potential at both national and district levels.

4 Accelerated dissemination of renewable energy technologies in developing countries

To the casual observer, the problems facing the options of renewable energy technology dissemination as an options for GHGs mitigation appear overwhelming. A closer look would, however, demonstrate that the nature of the energy sector in sub-Saharan Africa provides enormous opportunities for formulating and implementing ambitious renewable energy programmes that will bring an environmentally-sound and secure energy future for the region closer to reality (Davidson and Karekezi, 1992). Many of the conclusions outlined in this section are valid for many developing countries of Latin America and Asia.

Firstly, although a number of sub-Saharan African countries have significant unexploited reserves of fossil fuels, the prospects for major increases in fossil fuel supply are constrained by the unequal distribution of reserves which entails large investments in distribution.

For example, it is estimated that 80% of sub-Saharan Africa's oil reserves are in Nigeria and 76% of the region's natural gas reserves and 88% of the region's bituminous coal reserves are in Nigeria and South Africa, respectively. Renewable energy resources are, on the other hand, relatively well distributed in the region and would not require major investments in new energy distribution networks.

Secondly, even if significantly new findings of fossil fuel resources were to be found, the already onerous debt burden and fragile economies of many sub-Saharan African countries would limit the investments that can be made in conventional, centralized energy systems. In 1989, the World Bank (1989) estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would need US $ 28 billion over the next ten years in order to satisfy 5 percent growth in energy demand. Competition for the limited capital available is more intense due to increased demand from the emerging market economies of Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. In addition, the performance of centralized and conventional power systems continues to be well below expectations in spite of accounting for the bulk of the energy investment in the region.

Thirdly, the capital requirements of renewables are generally lower than those of conventional and centralized investments. More importantly, the modular nature of renewable energy allows even the poorest of sub-Saharan African countries to begin a phased energy investment programme that would not strain its national investment programme or draw investment funds away from other pressing basic nutrition, health, education and shelter needs.

Fourthly, the decentralized nature of human settlements in the region implies very high distribution costs for conventional centralized power systems. Contrary to popular belief, a large number of rural Africans reside in individual scattered homesteads and not in concentrated villages. Extending power from centralized generating stations to individual homes is a particularly costly undertaking. In this context, renewables and other decentralized energy options are particularly competitive.

Fifthly, in spite of some high-profile and dramatic setbacks, the increasing number of demo-cratic elections in sub-Saharan Africa have ushered in new and pro-active administrations willing to adopt imaginative energy policies and innovative institutional changes that combine supply-oriented investments with decentralized and renewable energy programmes.

Through organizations such as the African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN/FWD); the African Energy Programme (AEP) of the African Development Bank (ADB); the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); the Inter-Governmental Agency for Desertification and Development (IGADD); and, the South African Development Community (SADC) there is growing high-level support for sustainable energy strategies that include a significant amount of renewable energy activities.

Finally, numerous energy agencies in both the Government and non-Governmental sectors have emerged. In a number of sub-Saharan African countries, the rapid institutional development is beginning to be matched by the development of a critical mass of local energy expertise willing to face the challenge of formulating and implementing effective large-scale renewable energy programmes. In addition, there is growing national and regional links that are being forged by energy institutions, especially in the non-Governmental sector, leading to better networking and information exchange. This can provide an important avenue for rapid diffusion of information on renewable energy technologies.

Measures that would encourage the large-scale dissemination of sustainable energy options such as renewable energy technologies in sub-Saharan Africa can be grouped into the following six categories:

4.1 Renewable energy policy programmes

Pro-active and long-term policy-oriented renewable energy programmes aimed at senior decision-makers in both Government and the private sector should be initiated. The innovative energy policy programme of the African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN/FWD) provides a model example (Christensen and McCall, 1994). The policy programmes should be designed to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of renewables technologies and propose short and medium term policy initiatives that would engender large-scale dissemination of renewables. Priority should be given to highlighting the real and tangible economic benefits (such as job creation and income generation) that renewable energy programmes can deliver to the region at both the micro and macro levels.

Renewable energy technologies are generally more labor intensive than conventional and centralized energy projects and can help to address problems of both urban and rural unemployment.

Of particular interest to policy-makers in sub-Saharan Africa would be revenue neutral policy and institutional measures. For example, it is possible to make the case that the loss of revenue associated with the removal of duties and taxes on renewable energy technologies such as PVs can be recouped from the long-term savings in imports of petroleum fuels that require access to convertible currencies or the income and sales tax remittances from a large and functional PV industry.

4.2 Technological and institutional leapfrogging

Many experts in the South have recognized the importance of technological and institutional leapfrogging in countries where physical infrastructure and institutional development are still in their embryonic stage. There are several obstacles, however, to engineering technological and institutional leapfrogging.

A key obstacle is the general competition for scarce capital. Because the up-front capital requirements of adopting large-scale renewable technologies are, in general, higher than those for older, less environmentally-sound energy technologies, the solution to the investment equation differs depending upon whether one optimizes for short-term objectives of meeting pressing demand for energy services or long-term objectives of meeting demand at least economic and environmental cost.

The fast track to delivering services is to import outdated technology. Private Western industrial interests have encouraged such practice, thereby creating markets for technologies that are no longer saleable at home. In addition, the funding convention practiced by aid agencies of favoring, if not requiring, the adoption of technologies that are well established in the West increases the difficulty of financing investments in advanced renewable energy technologies. This furthers the pressure to prioritize the short-term optimization equation.

A paradigm shift is needed in development aid for the energy sector, to support technological innovation rather than the traditional pattern of supporting proven conventional energy technologies. Aid agencies can make a significant contribution to the implementation of technological leapfrogging by not only changing their practices to support the adoption of advanced technologies, but by assuming some of the risk associated with making cutting-edge investments in renewables.

The need to adapt both new and conventional technologies to local settings should be recognized explicitly as part of this paradigm shift, and the costs of doing so should be incorporated as prerequisite to the successful support of sustainable renewable energy sector development.

At the institutional level, developing countries needs to realize that the centralized energy model is becoming increasingly obsolete in developed countries where independent power producers riding the back of the privatization wave are increasingly the norm rather than the exception. Rather than continue to expand its centralized power systems, the South should begin to develop a decentralized energy structure which would better match its current capital resources and management capability as well as position it well to adapt to future energy technologies and systems.

4.3 Training and capacity building initiatives

Long-term renewable energy training programmes designed to develop a critical mass of locally-trained manpower with the requisite technical, economic and social-cultural skills are urgently needed. Many of the engineering and technical courses that are currently taught at universities and colleges in the South provide little exposure to energy technologies. Modest changes in the curricula of existing colleges and universities could significantly increase the supply of skilled renewable energy engineers, policy analysts and technicians.

Both capacity and demand for local analytical expertise to provide comprehensive evaluations of available renewable energy resources and options for utilizing them are needed in the developing countries. Non-partisan groups, such as NGOs and independent research institutes and networks are well placed for performing such studies. Fostering the development of human resources and encouraging their use is a valuable area for investing assistance, as it directly equips recipient countries with tools for managing their resources on their own.

Efforts to integrate analytical expertise within the energy sector with that of other key actors in the development process - such as expertise within the banking, social/community development and public sectors - should be included in this area of support. This is key to understanding not only the resources and technologies available but the institutional setting through which they may be adopted and the needs and interests of the target communities as well.

The energy policy research programme of the African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN/FWD) which brings together over 75 African academics and policy makers from 17 sub-Saharan African countries provides a model example of how effective collaboration between energy researchers and policy makers can be realized (Christensen and McCall, 1994). Similarly, the APENPLAN programme of the Asia Pacific Development Centre (APDC) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia also provide another interesting model that could be widely replicated.

4.4 New and flexible financing mechanisms

Priority should be given to the establishment of innovative and sustainable financing programmes for renewable energy technologies. This may range from the creation of a National Fund for renewable energy projects financed by a modest tax on fossil fuels to credit schemes specifically aimed at developing renewable energy industries and endowment funding of renewable agencies.

In Ghana, a national energy fund has been successfully utilized to finance renewable energy projects and energy efficiency activities on a sustainable basis. An important challenge is the bundling of discrete renewable energy projects into large programmes which can be financed by major bilateral and multilateral donor and financing agencies. A more ambitious regional financing initiative jointly designed by APENPLAN and the World Bank and initially known as FINESSE and now christened the World Bank Asia Alternative Energy Unit also provides an important model for study and possible replication in other parts of the developing world.

4.5 Innovative dissemination strategies

Support should be channeled towards wider application of the new renewable technology dissemination strategies that have demonstrated encouraging signs of success. Many of these strategies largely revolve around the idea of participation, income generation and small-scale enterprise development.

The rationale is that if producers and distributors can make an attractive income from the manufacture and marketing of renewable energy equipment and users are fully involved in the dissemination process, then the issue of sustainability is resolved in a much more cost-effective fashion.

The second important innovation is the idea of using existing systems of production, marketing and information dissemination. By using an existing production system, the cost of disseminating renewable energy technologies is dramatically reduced. This piggy-back principle is particularly effective in rural areas where the cost of establishing new marketing and distribution networks is costly. Renewable energy dissemination initiatives can be a component of an existing integrated income-generating project or environment programme or health extension programme.

The rural stove component of the Kenya stove programme successfully utilized this strategy and has managed to disseminate over 90,000 improved woodstoves using the existing nation-wide network of home science extension workers. In a similar fashions, solar and wind-energy technology programmes that have registered encouraging results have largely relied on existing agricultural extension or marketing networks to engineer rapid and low-cost dissemination.

Of particular interest to policy makers and development assistance agencies would be the provision of relatively reliable estimates of the critical mass of RETs systems, manufacturers or assemblers of RETs required to initiate a self-sustained dissemination process. This would provide programme managers with clear and measurable targets as well as re-assure policy makers and financiers that the assistance and subsidies channeled towards renewables have a finite lifetime after which a self-sustained industry and/or market would be able to move the programmes forward.


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