Exclusive interview with Wim Jonker Klunne, Programme Director, Energy and Environment Partnership Southern and East Africa and chairman of the inaugural Clean Power East Africa conference that is taking place as part of EAPIC in Nairobi in August.
Please tell us more about the Energy and Environment Partnership Programme (EEP S&EA)?
EEP is a challenge fund supported by the governments of Finland, the UK and Austria that provides grant funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in 13 countries in southern and Eastern Africa.
We use Calls for Proposals in which project developers compete to get funding. In this way we have been able to build a portfolio of nearly 200 projects, each of which has a quantified development impact.
Any current projects that you are involved in that you are particularly excited about?
I am very excited about the EEP programme itself. We are currently shifting from building a portfolio of projects to active management and monitoring of that portfolio.
We will have a critical look at the project in order to draw lessons learned and active management of the knowledge created.
The intention of the EEP programme was to support the market for small-scale renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in such a way that these types of projects will become mainstream.
With our knowledge management component we intend to see whether we have succeeded and how the market can benefit from our learnings.
What have been the main challenges in the electrification process in East Africa?
The main challenges have been in bringing together entrepreneurs, technologies, sustainable business models and funding.
Designing projects in such a way that they are sustainable, that they will be able to survive over time, is an area that needs a lot of attention.
The business model needs to ensure financial sustainability while not compromising on environmental and social aspects of electrification.
How can the contribution of renewable energy to the energy mix be improved?
Obviously several options exist, but in my view enabling private sector involvement in the energy sector can be one of the major contributors.
Both in grid-connected renewable energy generation through IPPs as in off-grid small scale projects. A stable and fair legal and regulatory framework will be a key ingredient to this.
What surprises you about the energy sector?
I have been surprised by the large number of very committed, passionate people in the renewable energy field—People with a lot of patience and persistence to eventually get their project off the ground.
While at the other hand I have been surprised as well about the lack of recognition of the role off-grid electrification can play in bringing development to rural areas. Having said that I currently do see a radical change in the thinking around this. The international attention to providing basic energy services to rural people, and in particular the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative are leading to big changes.
At EAPIC you are part of the programme, particularly the chairman of the inaugural Clean Power East Africa. How necessary is such a clean power-focused event for the region?
I was honoured to be asked to be the chairperson of Clean Power East Africa. I do see a lot of developments in the clean power market in the area, but also a lot of isolated initiatives.
Project developers, funders, support organisations and others are not interacting enough to reap the synergies possible. I hope CPEA can play a role in initiating such dialogue and by that contribute to the developments in the sector.
What will be your main message at the event?
My main message will be very clear: let us share our experiences to the benefit of all of us!
What are you most looking forward to at EAPIC?
Definitively the exchange of information, lessons learned and experiences, as well as meeting old friends and colleagues and getting to know new ones.
Anything you would like to add?
Yes, I would like to stress that I am very excited about current developments in the field. For a long time we have not seen such an interest in renewable energy, in rural electrification and in isolated mini grids. I really hope we can keep the momentum going and that we can provide energy to those that desperately need it.