Praia, - 18th June 2019 - Energy Experts have concluded that indecisiveness of policymakers and failure to streamline projects as well as collaboration with international institutions hinders the development of solar projects in Africa. This was echoed at the Africa Energy Forum 2019 (AEF) held in Lisbon, Portugal from 11 – 14 June 2019. The Africa Energy Forum (AEF) is a global investment meeting for Africa’s power, energy, infrastructure and industrial sectors. The Forum brought together senior decision-makers active in Africa's energy sector aimed at forming partnerships, identify opportunities and collectively move the industry forward.
Delegates at the forum expressed concern over what they described as low demand for electricity in many African regions, thus threatening the viability of new projects. Stakeholders however argued that the delivery of reliable new power to consumers will ultimately change the behaviour of energy users, thus triggering new activity and driving power demand.
Participants also discussed at length the issue of bankruptcy noting that financially unsustainable utilities present a major hurdle to attracting power investment. They said that utilities often increase retail electricity tariffs to make them reflect costs, but argued that increasing tariffs is one thing, and while financing the resulting payments is another. Delegates also noted as an example tariff hikes which they observed merely increased the strain on utilities by scaring off investors who are often worried about what to do in the event of bankruptcy.
The forum was also attended by the coordinator of Power Africa, Andrew Herscowitz, - a U.S. initiative established by former president Barack Obama to widen access to electricity on the African continent. Mr. Herscowitz told the forum that mini and micro-grids are not commercially viable at present and expressed doubt over its effectiveness in lifting African people out of poverty and supporting industrialization.
Many African state representatives at the forum also stated that they are still trying to find methodologies to define the right electricity tariff to accompany mini-grids. Other delegates suggested that the business model behind mini-grids needed improvement to make them commercially viable. Majority of AEF delegates suggested that power solutions must be innovative and responsive to the needs of customers. The meeting also discussed the need for projects to facilitate knowledge transfer from foreign companies to African stakeholders in a bid to empower local communities.
The ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) was represented at the forum by Mrs. Salett Nogueira, from the Communication Unit and Mr. Jaffaru AbdulRahman, from the IT Unit. The duo attended the meeting on behalf of the Executive Director of ECREEE, Mahama Kappiah during which they discussed Renewable Energy opportunities in West Africa region with investors and partners.