EEP AFRICA INTERVIEW: "Private sector can play a significant role in providing basic energy access"
1. You have a great deal of experience within the sector. What in your view, are some of the key trends you are noticing within the region?
The energy sector in the region, and in particular the renewable energy sector, is very much in a flux.
I do see a very clear increase in the attention to renewable energy and in particular on the possible role for the private sector in this. In the region most governments have set targets for universal access to energy. But we all know that, to say the least, these targets are very ambitious. If providing energy access will be based on extending the national grid only, I really doubt whether those deadlines will be met.
However, very positively, we do see the first signs of discussions between government and private sector on how they, together, can advance this access to energy. From EEP Africa we have supported more than 200 projects in southern and east Africa that proof private sector can play a significant role in providing basic energy access.
In my view, in a dialogue between national government and private sector players, it must be possible to come to a joint understanding how extending the national grid and private sector off grid developments can support each other. Engaging the private sector will allow a faster roll out of energy access than by relying on grid extension alone.
Part of that emerging discussion should include how national government can support businesses in their operations. Not only through clarity and facilitation on licenses and permits, but also on financial support to create a level playing field when comparing off grid solutions to grid extension.
2. What are the latest technologies supporting energy access in East Africa? From micro-grids to off grid solutions.
Based on the projects we have been supporting as EEP Africa, we actually see a wide variety of technologies being applied in East Africa. Ranging from the typical solar PV products to mini grids powered by biomass and small hydro indeed. Most of the innovations we see are related to how the specific renewable energy technology is being managed and how it interfaces with for example ICT solutions. The region is clearly taking the lead in the use of mobile payment solutions in the provision of energy, allowing customers to make small easy payments to their energy service providers.
To me, the future for energy access technologies is certainly not in one technology only. Not only because I do not believe in one silver bullet to solve the energy access challenge, but also because each energy technology does have its own niche where it fits best. Mini grids are a suitable technical solution where the population density is high, while individual solar home systems are better suited for areas with dispersed population. Similarly, if you have a hydropower sources available you rather use that first than to go for solar.
But in general I’d say that the future lies in combining technologies. Clever business models that take advantages of new rapid developments in mobile payment, remote access, ICT and big data and are able to combine that with suitable technical energy solutions will have the future, rather than energy only business models that focus on the technical energy solution only.
From EEP Africa we have recognized that and through our funding window we do explicitly target innovations in those business models to give them a chance to proof themselves and ready them for larger take up.
3. Please tell us more about the latest EEP projects and what you are hoping to achieve.
We just closed our first Call for Proposals under our new set up as a trust fund hosted by NDF. During this call we were looking for innovative early stage renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that need support to come to fruition. Through our support we hope to facilitate larger uptake of these type of projects and to facilitate market transformation in support of private sector involvement in the sector.
From our Call for Proposals we now evaluating and assessing concept notes received and selecting the most promising ones to invite to submit a full proposal for final consideration.
4. Any success stories that you can share at this stage?
From EEP Africa we have supported over 200 projects in the region. Most of these projects have been very successful in providing energy access, creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions etc. Although it is very difficult to single out individual projects as success stories, on our website we have put together stories of successful EEP projects across the regions representing diverse technologies, project types and business models.
(available via https://eepafrica.org/about-us/success-stories/)
5. How important is Future Energy East Africa on the region’s energy calendar?
FEEA is an important event in the region at which we see the stakeholders in the sector convening. For EEP Africa it provides an unique opportunity to reach out to the sector and share our knowledge, as well as to learn from others.
Wim Jonker Klunne is the Lead Coordinator of the EEP Africa Trust Fund, a regional fund that aims to increase energy access in 15 countries in Southern and East Africa. The fund is hosted by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) and provides seed funding to early stage renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Wim has over 25 years of experience in renewable energy and energy efficiency project implementation in southern and east Africa. He has worked on a wide range of energy implementation, research and capacity building projects on behalf of the AfDB, World Bank, UNDP, GEF, EU, national governments, private sector, research institutions and bilaterals.