As part of efforts towards tackling the region’s enormous energy shortfalls, the first ever energy conference begins today in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to discuss possible solutions to the problem.
The conference under the theme; ‘Energy: A Viable Business Opportunity’ is organised by the East African Business Council (EABC) and the East African Community (EAC) secretariat.
According to a press statement from EABC, more than 100 participants from East African companies with interest in improving access to reliable power supply and cutting energy costs attended the meeting. Other participants from Europe are also expected to attend.
Energy has been identified as one of the major stumbling blocks to investment promotion in the region as it increases the cost of doing business.
As a sign of how the region is badly affected by the energy inadequacies, the price of cement from any port in Asia is lower than cement produced in East Africa.
“The prime obstacle for business in East Africa is the high price of electricity, which are 5-10 times higher than in Egypt or South Africa. EABC has therefore identified the energy sector as a priority area for action,” the statement quotes Charles Mbogori, the EABC Executive Director as saying.
Mbogori adds that; “Renewable energy sources could play an important role in ensuring secure long-term sustainable energy supplies and in addition reduce the cost of doing business,”
The statement however notes that, investments in the energy sector are, to a large extent, still controlled by the public sector, which still struggles to deliver the capacity to cover the rapidly increasing demand.
“Current energy policies in many partner states are not well developed and do not provide incentive for private sector investment,” It concludes
The conference will therefore look at the current policy framework with the aim of developing policies that will accelerate private sector investments in the energy sector.
EABC is a major body of business associations in Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi with the aim of promoting Private Sector’s regional and global competitiveness in Trade and Investment.
One of East Africa’s investment partners, India saw a 12 per cent rise in investment in clean renewable energy like wind, solar, biomass and small-hydro projects with US$ 4.1 billion being pumped into this sector last year.
The largest portion of investment went to wind sector, which grew at 17 per cent from US$ 2.2 billion to US$ 2.6 billion.
While investment in solar energy rose from US$ 18 million in 2007 to US$ 347 million in 2008, most of it was channeled towards setting up module and cell manufacturing facilities.
Small hydro investment grew by about fourfold to US$ 543 million in 2008, but biofuels’ growth fell from US$ 251 million in 2007 to US$ 49 million in 2008.
According to a recent report by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2009,’ there was a four-fold increase in investment in green energy around the globe in 2008.
While, developed countries like US and those in Europe showed poor growth due to economic crisis, the developing countries were the bright spots in clear energy investment.
Rwanda plans to convert Biogas to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), a more environment friendly product that will be used as a fuel for vehicles and for cooking.
A product of cow dung, sewage, and sludge, biogas is a source of renewable energy that originates from methane producing bacteria in the process of bio-degradation of organic material under anaerobic conditions.
It has 60 percent of methane content and 40 percent of carbon dioxide and can be purified to match CNG standards by use of advanced technologies.