What do Africa’s energy systems want and need out of COP26?
As the world readies itself for COP26 in November, countries in Africa are walking a fine line between confronting market challenges and regulatory issues while acknowledging climate change is influencing our energy sectors.
Various parties and organisations will try to make their voices heard and lobby for the needs of their people at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow between 30 October and 12 November.
Ahead of COP, the Enlit Africa digital event gives a platform to Africa’s voices on 26 October with a programme dedicated to COP26 discussions. The day will start with a keynote address from Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter.
Eskom has not been shy about explaining how much money it would need to create a workable energy transition from coal reliance to a future predicated on more renewable energy sources. De Ruyter will give insight into recent discussions held with climate envoys from the UK, EU and the US and how these could translate into financial support for South Africa’s energy transition.
The Eskom CEO will be joined by Tanguy Gahouma-Bekale, Gabon-based Chair of the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change, who will explain the position the continent will take at COP26.
Haruperi Mumbengegwi, legal counsel for the power sector at the AfDB’s African Legal Support Facility, and Faith Odongo, senior deputy director of renewable energy in the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, will also provide insight on how COP26 could provide a launchpad for Africa’s energy transition.
Climate change implications for Africa’s energy stability part of COP26 discussions
A key element on the day will be a live roundtable discussion Heading to COP26.
Speaking with ESI Africa, the official host publication to the event, Moderator Dr Roland Nkwain Ngam, Programme Manager: Climate Justice and Socio-Ecological Transformation of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in South Africa, said energy poverty is still a major problem across Africa. As many areas depend on hydroelectricity, Africa recording ten of its hottest years over the last two decades is causing a problem.
Rising temperatures coincide with major drought episodes and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says events are expected to get worse. “For this reason, we must start analysing the implications of climate change for the continent’s present and future energy stability,” said Ngam.
“Although Africa contributes less than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are the continent most affected by climate change. Climate change threatens our food systems, development plans, health, etc. The world promised to invest more in mitigation and adaptation in Africa. We have to hold them to this promise in order to build resilience in our communities,” said Ngam who will lead the Enlit Africa discussion on what various organisations in Africa hope to hear from the COP26 discussions.
Creating new energy access through renewables could change Africa’s emissions footprint
Patrick Tonui, head of policy and regional strategy for off-grid solar association GOGLA explained that as their sector seeks to scale, they could make invaluable contributions in the realisation of carbon emission reductions.
GOGLA supports members and communities seeking universal energy access, who leverage off-grid energy solutions for social and economic development. “In this context, climate change represents both an opportunity and a threat. As a sector anchored on renewable energy solutions, we can contribute towards realising energy access and development in a climate-smart manner. However, to date, we see a lack of holistic and inclusive planning and approaches in this regard,” Tonui told ESI Africa.
For her part, as the representative of power developers working across Africa, AMDA CEO Jessica Stephens represents a constituency of companies and organisations who believe minigrids could be a solution to climate change issues. “Advocating for minigrid deployment is our main focus by encouraging public and donor financial support much needed to leverage private investment and ensure that Africa can meet its energy challenge,” said Stephens.
Development of energy sector comes with economic, technical and social challenges
AMDA believes minigrids and renewable energy are crucial to tackling climate change as they can avoid the use of fossil fuels and thus help reduce and avoid CO2 emissions.
Lower costs and creating an enabling environment that attracts investment would allow minigrids to scale up and boost rural electrification. This would potentially address global warming while providing direct benefits to people living in affected communities, such as boosting healthcare, raising household income and increasing access to educational opportunities.
But, for minigrids to develop their full potential, a number of economic, technical and social challenges must be addressed: “Financing is the biggest obstacle to deploying minigrid technology in most African countries. Reducing the burden on national development budgets, an enabling environment to attract private investment in minigrids; support national authorities to develop regulatory frameworks that are scalable for minigrid deployment,” said Stephens.
Stephens, Tonui and Ngam will be joined on the roundtable by AMEU strategic advisor Vally Padayachee who brings the perspective of African municipal energy users and Barbara O’Neil, grid integration manager for NREL, who represents the Global Power System Consortium who have started working with African power system operators on how to bring renewable energy onto their grids safely, sustainably and reliably.