Abel Rugaju runs RAN power, a social enterprise in Uganda that is dedicated to extending power to offgrid rural communities by building small hydro-power plants. Lois Gicheru is the founder of Solarfrique, a start-up that is dedicated to installing solar panels in Kenya’s rural areas
“We are targeting rural offgrid areas because they suffer most from energy poverty, government efforts to extend modern energy services have been concentrated in urban areas yet the majority population is rural based ,”she says.
These were some of the young enthusiastic energy entrepreneurs from Africa at the Second Stakeholder Forum of the Africa-EU Energy Partnership (AEEP) that are trying to scale up clean energy access to the 620 million sub-Saharan Africans living without access to electricity.
The event, which took place on the 16th and 17th of May at the Politecnico di Milano (POLIMI) in Milan ,Italy was organized by the Italian Government, the African Union Commission (AUC), and the European Union Commission (EUC). Under the theme of Business and Science: Leading the Way to Sustainable Energy, the event brought together African and European Ministers, AU and EU Commissioners, and more than 500 other high-level participants representing policy-makers, regional institutions, international organizations, the banking and finance industry, the private sector, academia, civil society and the media.
Discussions centered around investment in energy infrastructure, partnerships for on-the-ground implementation, as well as influencing energy and climate policy to provide an enabling framework for stakeholders to accelerate the delivery of post-COP21 results .
“African governments need to develop favorable policy and regulatory conditions to increase investments and empower energy entrepreneurs to scale up their delivery of clean energy. Uganda has created an enabling environment for private sector investments in the energy sector,” said Hon. Irene Muloni, Uganda’s energy minister.
There was shared concern around a few key policy issues and some that were most frequently cited are:
· Three challenges remain for the private sector: regulation, operational risk and stable revenue. There is need to link private energy investors with finance
- Community involvement and participation should be at the heart of energy projects. Project developers need innovative financing mechanisms in order to cater for the needs of the rural poor and should to raise awareness on the opportunities in clean energy access.
- Women are at the center of society and their participation in the energy sector is vital .Energy project developers need to engender their approach and more action is still required in terms of cooking energy
- There many initiatives on the continent in support for rapidly achieving near-universal access to clean energy services. However a lot must be done to deliver on these initiatives.
“Africa has enormous potential of renewable energy sources but energy poverty prevails, concerted effort is needed from all stakeholders for concrete project investments,” said H.E. Dr. Elham Ibrahim, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, African Union
The consensus was clear, Africa is not going to be able to deal with its energy crisis by itself and everyone has to get involved to deliver a sustainable energy future for the continent.