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Future Energy East Africa Conference Highlights Sector Potential

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By Moses Adongo

The energy sector across the globe has tremendously grown with power production and mini-grid projects expanding rapidly. With stakeholders committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (7) of ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, there has been the development of varying alternative sources of energy.

This has seen 74% of households connected to the grid in Africa, according to a World Bank report. However, the energy sector has still lived to face many other challenges, a reason as to why industry players are converging in Nairobi from yesterday focusing on energy access, finance, renewables, and transmission as well as distribution.

The conference, dubbed Future Energy East Africa, will run from 12th-13th September 2018.

The launch was graced by Kenya’s Dr. Joseph Njoroge, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum.

In his welcome keynote address, Dr. Njoroge noted that the energy sector plays a significant role in helping the country achieve its Vision 2030 goals. He revealed that the current power access across the country currently sits at 73% with increased connections being in the rural areas.

He, however, noted that more cross-sectoral efforts need to be put in place to ensure that these figures improve. He urged the private sector to exploit the country’s potential in the energy sector.

Other key speakers praised the efforts being put to expand regional access to energy, with notable engagements between governments and the private sector being reported so far.  The speakers were also impressed by the increased number of financiers who support start-up mini-grid projects as an alternative source of clean energy. This meant expanded regional investment for energy production.

It came out that regional governments were starting to set up policies to integrate mini-grids into the national grids in a bid to expedite and expand connections to the rural areas. This would mean cost sharing in a public-private partnership program.

With increased lobbying for fair regulations, governments that previously monopolized the sector with national utilities, are slowly starting to put laws that make it easy for competitors to come in. This has encouraged an influx of investors into the market.

Licensing and concession acquisitions have been made easy and cheaper over time, encouraging stakeholders to put up investments. In Kenya for example, the creation of Huduma Centers across the country has quicken acquisition of licenses as well as applications; thus investors are increasingly encouraged to set up projects.

According to a study by EEP Africa, there is no licensing requirement in Tanzania for projects below 1 MW and no tariff approval needed below 100 KW. In Rwanda according to the same study, there is no environmental clearance or required license for mini-grids under 500KW. Such policies have opened up investment opportunities for the private sector.

The Future Energy East Africa conference, formerly East African Power Industry Convention, generally agree that there is much potential for investment despite other challenges that may still face the sector.

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