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Sudan: Unlocking renewable energy to expand energy access

The United Nations Development Programme has released a roadmap to unlock the potential of Sudan’s renewable energy and expand energy access.

The roadmap, entitled Empowering Sudan: Renewable energy addressing poverty and development, was developed through a series of consultations organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This was in response to a request by the government of the Republic of Sudan for technical support to identify and fast-track sustainable energy initiatives and investments.

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Energy use in Sudan is growing rapidly. Traditional biomass provides most of the population’s energy use, especially for people in the countryside. Ironically, electricity use is growing at about 13% annually, despite only 47% of the country’s rural population currently being connected to the national grid, according to the International Energy Agency.

Sudan is challenged by high electricity subsidy levels and climate changed induced droughts reducing their hydroelectric generation negatively by 4% every year. Thus improving access to modern and affordable energy is a development need for the northeast African country.

The roadmap report was launched digitally by Sudan’s acting Minister of Energy and Mining, Khairy Abdelrahman Ahmed, alongside youth climate activist and journalist Lina Yassin, Sudan general director of renewable and alternative energy Yasir Saeed Abdalla and sector leaders.

Khairy Abdelrahman Ahmed explained energy plays a central role in poverty reduction, women empowerment, sustainable development and public health: “The time is right to move from pilot projects to a full scale-up of these technologies. We look forward to working with international partners, the private sector and others to achieve Sudan’s renewable energy future.”

Shining a light on Sudan’s renewable energy potential

With 60% of Sudan’s total population lacking access to electricity, findings highlighted in the report include shining a light on the high potential for wind energy in the Northern State, River Nile and Red Sea plus Sudan’s high level of solar irradiance, which offers opportunities to mitigate the threat of climate change.

A policy suggestion made in the report is the development of a National Solar Fund to serve as a mechanism to pool funds from national banks, federal and state-level government, the UNDP and international donors to ensure low-cost solar technology loan are commercially available. Another suggestion is to improve energy-related data held by government agencies to allow for better decision-making about energy resources.

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UNDP Sudan resident representative, Dr Selva Ramachandran, explained Sudan faces many development challenges because of their high electricity subsidy level, the negative impact of climate change on their hydroelectric capacity, fossil fuel shortages and, more recently, the impact of the COVID-19. “Renewable energy and further steps towards expanded use, are critical to unlocking Sudan’s development potential, particularly in agriculture, tackling poverty and gender inequality and empowering a new Sudan. Steps like a National Solar Fund are a concrete way to achieve this,” she explained.

Breaking the link between economic poverty and energy poverty

The report focuses on three broad strategic themes and is framed against a background of the strong linkages between energy, poverty and gender in Sudan. It points out “the lack of access to energy services is both a cause and outcome of poverty.

“As a cause of poverty, the lack of access to energy means that income generation potential is severely limited for poor households; as an outcome of poverty, the lack of access to energy means that poor households are unable to afford goods and services that others enjoy.

“Moreover, the relationships between energy and poverty have distinct gender overtones as poor women, many in female-headed households, spend much more time than their male counterparts on energy-related activities such as firewood gathering, water fetching and cooking.”

The report suggests 69 specific recommendations to provide renewable energy services for sustainable development, focused across three themes and nine strategic areas. The three themes are:

  • Increase access to sustainable energy services for poverty reduction and empowerment of women;
  • Accelerate structural transformation of the energy sector as a means of sustainable development; and
  • Promote energy service as a key enable for building resilience and sustainable recovery to all forms of development shocks.

Empowering Sudan: Renewable energy addressing poverty and development, available online, specifies short term (within the next 6 months), medium-term (between 6 months and 3 years) and long-term (beyond 3 years) measures of intervention to unlock the potential of Sudan’s renewable energy.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.