Exclusive interview with Aurelia Figueroa, researcher at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE). She will address the African Utility Week large power users track on “The human factor in energy efficiency initiatives: Lessons from developing economies”.
1.Tell us more about your organisation and your activities in the utility industry?
The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) operates as the Think Tank for the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), providing policy advice on a range of topics. The DIE has been engaged in the utility industry by conducting a number of studies related to end-user energy efficiency. Among others, it has conducted empirical research on household energy efficiency in the Nairobi informal settlement of Kibera in Kenya and on industrial activities in South Africa.
2.What in your view are the main challenges currently to the energy industry in Africa?
Much of the focus is frequently placed on the requirements of scaling up energy access and provision in Africa, and rightly so. However, this may unnecessarily ignore the welfare and energy security gains that can be realised through demand side management efforts. Although time and financial resources are tight, behaviour change can yield low-cost, high-value contributions in terms of demand reduction and welfare contributions. At the industry level, this would be a key input in terms of competitiveness.
Behaviour change is an important precursor and complement to technology upgrading and should be integrated more broadly into industrial energy efficiency initiatives. The valuation of behaviour modification can be difficult however, requiring the introduction of tailored structures to facilitate the provision of lines of credit to support behaviour change programmes, for example.
3.Any specific project updates/success stories that you can share?
The DIE has conducted the first, to our knowledge, in-depth study of behavioural insights for energy efficiency among firms and households in developing and emerging economies. A randomised control trial conducted in Kenya has illustrated the value of behavioural inputs in encouraging demand side management measures.
4.You are part of the conference programme at this year’s African Utility Week in May, what will be your message?
My message will focus on the potential of behavioural insights to realise substantial savings in household and industry. Behaviour modification is certainly no easy task, and while it often requires deliberative reflection to identify useful entry points, it frequently yields high gains. While behaviour is a popular topic at the moment, I will go into detail to identify means of implementation, particularly drawing from empirical evidence on the African continent.
5.What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?
I am most looking forward to the exchange with implementers and the opportunity to further contextualize my own research while sharing evidence based policy recommendations.