There is no shortage of institutions in East Africa that are active in the small-scale renewable energy technology space for both grid-tied and off-grid solutions. Their focus is on creating new knowledge through research and building capacity on all levels. However, there appears to be little strategic alignment across the region.
A regional approach could maximise the capabilities of institutions and avoid unnecessary duplication of activities from postgraduate studies, technical training and support for entrepreneurs to the testing of technologies and the development of standards such as for cook stove testing.
In a WWF South Africa report, Smallscale renewable energy technologies in East Africa, the level of localisation was reviewed. Examination of the local content, manufacturing and installation, and grid design and maintenance in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia informed the report’s key recommendations as follows.
The need for a regional approach
A regional approach that maximises the existing capabilities of the different institutions and avoids unnecessary duplication of activities will free up resources. The inconsistency of tax or duty exemptions between countries on imported technologies is an area of concern for private sector investors. A key intervention to kick-start a strategic regional approach could be a series of engagements and/or workshops with key stakeholders to unlock policy alignment and maximise resources and synergies between institutions.
The need to support and rethink existing models of training and capacity building
Renewable energy deployment demands a range of capacities, from academic qualifications to practical vocational skills. Necessary skills development includes vocational training and entrepreneurial support covering technical knowledge, business management skills and training related to successfully accessing and managing finance.
The need for an enabling policy environment
Policy uncertainty about future grid connectivity of mini-grids as well as onerous and complicated licensing and registration requirements for mini-grids pose a barrier to private sector investment, and should be addressed as soon as possible.
The need to upscale local manufacturing
Ideally, governments should support local manufacturing by increasing local content requirements and scrapping tax exemptions for imported technologies, as has been done in Uganda and to a lesser extent in Tanzania.
The need to address financial constraints
The World Bank and partner institutions have identified appropriate finance as the most significant hurdle for local deployment of mini-grids and solar home systems. It remains challenging for energy entrepreneurs to access seed and working capital. Impact investors can specifically boost the development and entrance of local enterprises to build a strong and sustainable local supply chain by providing seed and working capital to SMEs.
The need to streamline standards and certification
Although testing is being done by various institutions within countries there is still no uniform standard for clean cook stoves, and many of the stoves available on the market are of inferior quality. Regional standards and certification should be streamlined because many suppliers operate in more than one country.
The need to build awareness
The importance of multiple marketing and awareness campaigns cannot be overstressed, including peer-to-peer learning and demonstration to build local awareness and acceptance of renewable energy technologies. ESI
Register for the Future Energy East Africa conference and exhibition, which includes free-to-attend Knowledge Hubs, on 17–18 September 2019 at the KICC in Nairobi, Kenya. Plan your trip to meet with industry stakeholders and engage with experts on a variety of topics.