African govts urged to harmonise energy laws to attract investments

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Delegates follow proceedings at the iPAD summit yesterday. / Timothy Kisambira

African governments have been urged to harmonise regulatory and legal frameworks to attract more investors into the continent’s energy sector.

Kipyego Cheluget, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) assistant secretary general for programmes, said uniform laws could play a big role in attracting more energy investors to drive Africa’s generation and distribution capacity.

Speaking during the opening of the 3rd iPAD Rwanda Energy Infrastructure summit in Kigali, yesterday, Cheluget cited the COMESA region, saying it lacks investments in the energy and infrastructure sectors, generally, despite the increasing demand for power in the bloc.

“It is, therefore, imperative that we expedite policies that will attract investments into the energy sector to facilitate trade and development on the continent,” he said.

He added that the region’s energy potential currently stands at more than 110,000MW, and yet the current installed capacity is still under 55,000MW.

The two-day iPAD summit has brought together over 500 energy experts, investors and policy-makers to deliberate on strategies to increase energy generation, distribution and supply in the most “efficient and effective” ways.

Jean-Bosco Mugiraneza, the Rwanda Energy Group chief executive officer, called for strengthening of public-private partnerships, saying this is critical to attract more funding to the energy sector to boost its capacity.

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Rwanda Energy Group chief executive Jean-Bosco Mugiraneza speaks during the meeting. / Timothy Kisambira

Rwanda’s installed power generation capacity stands at 190MW, against a target of 563MW by 2018. The country is also targeting to increase connectivity to more than 70 per cent of the population by the same time under the rural electrification strategy.

Of this, at least 48 per cent of the households will be either connected to the national grid to a large off-grid renewable energy source, while 22 per cent will be served by small off-grid power source.

Currently, the country’s hydro electricity generation capacity accounts for 97.37MW, thermal power is at 51.7MW, methane is 3.6MW, while 8.75MW is produced from solar energy. Other efforts to increase power supply include importing 30 megawatts from Kenya – expected by end of 2016 – and another 400 megawatts from Ethiopia by 2018.

However, experts believe, achieving the targets will require more financing and strategic policies and partnerships.

Speaking at the event, Lars Akerlind, from Sweden-based Eltel Network, called for clear strategies and transparent policies to attract new investors and funding into the sector and boosting power generation and, hence ensuring reliable power operations.

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Lars Akerlid, head of marketing and sales at Eltel Networks Sweden, speaks during the meeting. / Timothy Kisambira

He noted that clear laws are key to improve the business environment for investors and energy developers.

The electricity access countrywide today stands at 25 per cent and the remaining 75 per cent use other sources of energy for lighting, most of which are unsafe and unhealthy such as kerosene.

Embracing off grid solutions

Meanwhile, energy experts called for more resources to be invested into off-grid and renewable energy solutions to boost access to energy.

The experts argue that more investments in renewable energy will increase Rwanda’s energy generation capacity and connectivity, which will, in turn, translate into a faster and more sustainable economic growth.