Clean Power Africa

Chandirekera Mutubuki-Makuyana

Exclusive interview with Chandirekera Mutubuki-Makuyana, Senior Advisor Renewable Energy: SNV Netherlands Development Organisation.  She returns to Hydropower Africa and will address the upcoming event on:  “Realising the potential and development of small hydropower and pumpedstorage projects in Africa” and run a workshop on: “Wave and ocean current energy”.

1) Can you tell us more about SNV World and its activities, particularly in Africa?
SNV is an international not-for-profit development organisation. We believe that no-one should live in poverty and that all people should have the opportunity to pursue their own sustainable development.  Starting out in the Netherlands more than 40 years ago, we now work in 36 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Our global team of local and international advisors work with local partners to equip communities, businesses and organisations with the tools, knowledge and connections they need to increase their incomes and gain access to basic services – empowering them to break the cycle of poverty and guide their own development. By sharing our specialist expertise in Agriculture, Renewable Energy, and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, we contribute to solving some of the leading problems facing the world today – enabling local solutions to global challenges and sowing the seeds of lasting change. SNV aims to make a lasting difference in the lives of 40 million people living in poverty over the period 2011-2015.

In Agriculture SNV’s work in the agricultural sector is based on a three-pronged approach: enhanced positioning of (smallholder) farmers within value chains, promotion of climate friendly agriculture and facilitating increased access to food.
In Renewable Energy, SNV has targets to provide support in the development of innovative, healthy and environmentally sustainable energy and fuel products through knowledge development, market stimulation and appropriate financing mechanisms; improve access to affordable, clean and renewable energy and fuels for households and small/medium enterprises through sustainable market-based approaches; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, SNV targets to improve functional access of households to potable water in rural, peri-urban and urban settings (through improving functionality of existing but malfunctioning systems); improve functional access of households to proper sanitation systems; stimulate healthy practices through improved hygiene; and improve functional access to all services in key public places, especially schools and public buildings.

Renewable energy work in Africa: The Africa Biogas Partnership Programme, funded by the Netherlands Government and coordinated by SNV and Hivos, is being implemented in 6 countries. These include Burkina Faso, Senegal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. SNV is also implementing a biogas programme in Rwanda. These programmes have a combined target of 79,500 digesters by 2015.  There are also various renewable energy projects that other SNV countries in Africa are doing.  Kenya have work in solar PV, Tanzania have an integrated renewable energy technologies programme, Zambia is exploring work in biofuels and biogas, and  domestic biomass programmes in Kenya, Rwanda and Mozambique.
2) Any projects in particular that you are involved in?
SNV Zimbabwe is involved in a couple of projects in Zimbabwe and these include Biogas Market Development, Developing distribution channels of Solar PV products to Rural markets, and Waste to Energy with selected Municipalities in Zimbabwe. The organisation realises that there are massive renewable energy options in the country which can increase access to clean energy to poor people in Zimbabwe for basic needs like cooking, lighting and heating.  However, the organisation also realises that not much has been done to increase this access, and the main deterrent being lack of functional renewable energy markets.  In line with SNV World goal and strategy, SNV Zimbabwe has two major projects both at pilot stage, where the aim is to improve access to affordable, clean and renewable energy for households and small and medium enterprises through sustainable market based approaches.  These two projects are the biogas market development programme and the Solar PV Rural Markets Development programme. Under the Biogas Market Development programme, SNV Zimbabwe is working with selected sectors in the country (pig and dairy farmers and abattoirs) to develop a functional biogas market in the country that will be able to provide design, siting, sizing, construction and operation and maintenance services to potential clients. Biogas from livestock has a gross potential of generating the equivalent of 55MW in the country against an estimated demand of 2500MW. For this potential to be realised, SNV works with suppliers to build their skill base to supply quality and affordable biogas products.  SNV also works with potential biogas customers to raise their awareness and be able to demand quality products and services from suppliers as well as increase awareness of what biogas technology can do for them. The organisation also works with financial actors to explore financing options that can make the technology affordable and accessible to more poorer and consumptive customers in rural Zimbabwe communities so as to reduce dependence on firewood.

Under the Solar PV Rural Markets Development programme, SNV is working with private company suppliers of solar PV products to increase supply of solar products to rural markets.  SNV Zimbabwe studies have shown that there is a viable potential market for solar PV products in rural Zimbabwe which has not been tapped into.  Through an innovative market based approach, SNV Zimbabwe is working with companies to build skills of rural based youths to increase distribution and after sales networks for private solar PV companies and subsequently increase access to rural communities to solar products.  By increasing distribution markets to rural areas and creating linkages with suppliers transaction costs and risks of developing new markets are reduced, employment opportunities for idle rural youths increased, and availability of solar PV products to rural markets are also increased.

Power shortage in Southern Africa is no longer news and Zimbabwe is no exception.  Waste to energy concept offers Zimbabwe an opportunity to diversify the energy matrix of cities and protect cities from erratic energy availability, while reducing the environmental footprint and associated health costs of burdened solid and sewage waste facilities.    SNV is working with selected cities in Zimbabwe to quantify the waste to energy market, assist the municipalities to come up with business cases to bring such waste to energy projects to reality and excite financiers to fund such projects. On the basis of its knowledge, experience and extensive presence, SNV aspires to assist these cities with capacity building and technology transfer by building North to South linkages with cities in the Netherlands that have reached extensive levels of waste to energy resource deployment.  

3) How does this relate to Clean Power/hydropower?
SNV is about clean power, it is about supporting development of innovative, healthy and environmentally sustainable energy and fuel products through knowledge development, market stimulation and appropriate financing mechanisms.  It is also about developing and fostering partnerships in clean energy technologies, and I believe that is also what Clean Power is also about.  When I attended the conference last year, the focus was hydro and solar and I believe that was also its name.  But this year it is called Clean Power, which shows that other renewables are coming into focus.  There are issues to do with project financing, human capital development and retention, challenges for independent power producers, and distributed / smart generation and energy storage. These are topical issues across all renewable energy projects which SNV has worked or is working in.  There are financing issues and human capital development and retention in biogas, waste to energy and solar.  As more work starts with waste to energy with cities issues of independent power producers and feed-in-tariffs, as well as successfully intergrating waste to energy electricity into the grid, will become important.  All these topics are covered in the Clean Power Conference and the organisation will benefit from networking and developing partnerships with organisations that have already made a headway in such topics. Clean Power also has a component on concentrated solar technology and this offers opportunities of exposure and site visit to a plant called Aquila and that is valuable to SNV.  

However, SNV also has a lot to offer to Clean Power / Hydropower.  The organisation has been active in the renewable energy sector since 1989, starting in Asia. Renewable Energy as a sector has similar challenges and experiences in Asia have been instrumental in shaping the programme in Africa.  As a result,  SNV has developed expertise globally as a capacity builder, and though previously our focus has been on biogas, we are now stretching our engagement to other RE technologies.  We also believe that by developing markets in renewable energy, clean energy services can be accessible to all people, including the poor.  A sector wide development approach ensures a holistic approach to energy provision rather than a component approach.  In a sector development approach all facets that ensure an efficient renewable energy provision sector are given due attention, so we hope to be able to get the attention like minded organisations to influence more renewable energy stakeholders on board.

4) What in your opinion are the main challenges to the implementation of cleaner energy sources in Africa?
Clean Energy as a sector has similar challenges, whether its hydro, solar, biogas, tidal or wind.  These include capacity gaps of experts who can implement them, financing issues and general lack of knowledge and poor quality issues.  If one looks at hydro, there are few hydro schemes that have been constructed in Southern Africa in the last two decades which means people with practical expertise to design and construct hydro schemes are at least 50 years old.  Due to the focus on large hydro schemes, such experts have probably only put up one hydro scheme in their lives (the Karibas and Cabora Bassa’s of Africa).  That in itself does not make a person an expert, in my opinion, because no two schemes are similar.  There are too few opportunities to develop this expertise because there aren’t too many clean energy projects being implemented.  That is the first challenge – there are too many people who know the theory but few who have put it to the test – few who have experience.  That is the same with most clean energy technologies, biogas, wind, wave/tidal.  The notorious partner of this poor capacity is financing.  Most clean energy technologies are notoriously expensive at capital investment level and in these current economies where there are financial crises and general cashflow shortages, innovations on financing models and facilities that can accommodate clean energy technologies have been lacking.  So without capital, there have been few opportunities for developing these energy schemes, and subsequently no expertise.  Having said that, there are opportunities – smaller decentralised renewable energy systems cost less, need less time to construct and offer the perfect opportunity for training ground for new clean energy experts.  It is an industry that has not been fully explored and for which financing products can be designed easily.  The other challenge is that clean energy demands that there be payment for viability and sustainability issues.  Most people in Southern Africa have been comfortably living in unrealistic euphoria of uneconomic energy tariffs, and the shift to clean energy where realistic energy prices have to come into play have been received with reluctance.  However, this is only a perception since it has been proved that economic tariffs do not necessarily translate to unaffordable tariffs.  As SNV we believe that by developing markets in renewable energy, clean energy services can be accessible to all people, including the poor provided business models are structured correctly.  A sector wide development approach ensures a holistic approach to energy provision rather than a component approach.  

5) What is the vision for the renewable industry in Africa?
There are abundant resources of renewable energy sources in Africa but very little has been harnessed.  Renewable energy products are not tradable commodities at present and there are no visible, proven suppliers who can provide renewable energy services in Southern Africa.  The vision we have as SNV Zimbabwe is to see more players in the sector, financing facilities that are easily accessible for renewable energy projects and enough experienced experts who can design, site, size and construct renewable energy projects.  We also have a vision of a market that produces renewable energy components and appliances which will cascade into a continent of people who use clean energy technologies for their benefit.

6) What will be your message for the Clean Power Africa delegates?
My message will be “Market based approaches to renewable energy provision”.

7) Anything you would like to add?
No except to which Clean Power success in this conference and also hoping that our discussions will translate to access.