Policy makers need to take concrete and practical measures, including financing to accelerate clean cooking solutions that address the needs of all consumers in rural and urban areas, experts said.
Speaking at the ongoing sustainable energy forum for East Africa 2018, in Kigali, Mikael Melin, of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforAll), a nonprofit, said transitioning to cleaner fuels such as ethanol and natural gas requires long-term, industry-building initiatives, which must begin immediately to meet 2030 clean cooking goals.
“Significant consumer awareness efforts are required on the opportunities and benefits of clean cooking,” he said.
He added that governments and development partners need to take an approach that looks at national transition strategies to clean cooking fuels and technologies.
The forum which ends Wednesday is jointly organised by the EAC Secretariat, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), and SEforALL.
Policy support and regulatory frameworks
Jaswinder Kaur, a UNIDO expert suggested policy support and regulatory frameworks including (zero-VAT, tax credits or exemptions) and removing barriers to scaling renewable energy investments.
According to Helena McLeod, the director for climate change and renewable energy at KPMG, the percentage of population that has access to electricity in Kenya is 60, Ethiopia 50, while it is 36 in Tanzania, 31 in Rwanda, 27 in Uganda and 4.5 in South Sudan.
“If we work together and we are innovative, and we think big, there are a lot of opportunities out there,” she said.
Monica Keza, the managing director at BBOXX, a local home solar energy systems company, told the forum that for the sake of sustainability it is best to consider bankable projects instead of always depending on grant money.
Keza said her company which started in 2014 now serves five countries and 26 districts in Rwanda, started with some grant money and has grown to debt and equity financing.
“It took us a while but we got there.”
Keza said home solar systems can be a solution but it has not been easy as financing is expensive.
“As we go forward, we hope it becomes easy and terms become less stringent.”
Asked if there is a role public finance can play to make things better, Keza, answered in the affirmative.
“Also, you could finance the banks directly so that they can reach the lower pyramids of the population. Most of our clients are farmers and when the harvest is not good they cannot afford our services.”
She said banks are reluctant to finance.
“They fear. Let’s probably give it a couple more years and more banks will be interested,” Keza said.
It was observed that the right financing, at the right time and the right ingredients is crucial when it comes to ensuring the region gets sustainable energy for its people.
Finance is not really a bottleneck as specific policy interventions in individual countries can ably help cover gaps, experts said.