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Occasional  Paper 9: Energy for Rural Development in Eritrea- Proceedings of a National policy Seminar

Edited by

Dr. Semere Habtetsion


Executive Summary

An affordable and sustainable supply of energy is a critical pre-requisite to rural development, while enabling rural economies to diversify and encourage the development of alternative systems of livelihood.  The high dependence of Eritrea on unmanaged biomass energy carriers has contributed to a number of environmental problems including; deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, 

The first of a series of planned two-day seminars, under the auspices of AFREPREN/FWD and its donors - Sida/SAREC, was conducted in Eritrea from 2-3 November 2000 on Renewables and Energy for Rural Development.  The most important outcome of the seminar was the awareness-raising and the enhanced commitments by all stakeholders to the common goals of providing energy to rural households and enterprises. The consensus reached at the seminar was that the existing government policy focuses mainly on the power, the oil and renewable energy sub-sectors. However, appropriate policy instruments that specifically address rural energy provisions are still lacking.  It came to the fore that there is a dearth of appropriate institutional structures at regional administration levels. The participants of the seminar further identified the existence of resources and experiences in micro-financing, which could be easily extended to the expansion of modern energy services in rural areas.  To reverse this situation, it was recommended that the Department of Energy should establish a Project Management Unit to co-ordinate rural energy projects, and the filling of the energy offices under the existing structure of the Economic Departments in the Regional Administrations.

Brainstorming sessions were conducted on rural energy issues and institutional frameworks, The objective was to critically assess the existing energy policy and institutional set-ups, and whether or not they are conducive to the expansion of modern energy services to rural localities, identify gaps and/or constraints and suggest ways of overcoming them. It emerged that there has been little attempt to identify the key stakeholders with respect to rural energy provision. The stakeholders are required to assist in improving the delivery of modern energy services to rural areas and to identify opportunities thereof.

The absence of institutional linkages and communications among stakeholders has led to the formulation of conflicting policies. The DoE is expected to act as the lead agency in taking initiatives to bring such stakeholders together, in the collection and collation of rural energy data, and to improve the access of local communities to modern energy services.

Several recommendations, including the following on national energy policies, were made at the seminar:

-Line Ministries should be consulted and involved in the formulation and implementation of rural energy policy and programmes. Such participation is imperative for the effectiveness, viability and suitability of any rural energy programmes.

-The Ministry of Energy and Mines should allocate a certain percentage of the levy on electricity consumption to support a rural energy development fund - for activities including rural electrification. The introduction of fair and relatively uniform connection fee, and the supply of soft credit to rural communities - who are prepared to share costs - will accelerate rural electrification.

-Efforts to sensitise the public to energy technology development in the rural areas should be redoubled.  This could attract potential investors in the development of energy technologies for rural areas.

-The "Energy Research and Training Centre" should be strengthened to become a centre of excellence for the sustainable development of new and renewable energy systems.

-Energy consumed for agricultural purposes should have a tariff structure that is lower than that of commercial activities. This will not only improve the food security situation of the country, but will also encourage the production of export crops.

-Distribution of kerosene to remote rural areas should be properly addressed. The experience of other successful distributors (e.g. Coca Cola) could be emulated to improve kerosene distribution in the rural areas. Designing appropriate incentive structures for kerosene distributors is another option.

-RETs and others energy technologies should be standardised and supported by technology agreements. The Eritrean Standards Office, in collaboration with the DoE and other relevant government institutions, including non-government institutions, can do this. The availability of spare parts and technical services for selected technologies must be ensured. The transfer of RETs can be promoted through financial and non-financial incentives. Private contractors and investors should equally be encouraged to participate in energy development in rural areas.

-New buildings should be equipped with solar-water heaters. The DoE should take the initiatives to convince and sensitise the Ministry of Public Works, on the need for such heaters so that the latter could develop new building codes to that effect.

On the issue of institutional framework it was recommended that an appropriate energy staff represent the structure of the Department of Energy, at least at the Zoba (Zone) level. The energy expert at the Zoba level, in collaboration with representatives of other ministries and local communities will:

-Assess the energy needs, supply and problems of rural areas, and report the findings to higher authorities for action.

-Analyse the use of energy and its allocation to the various sectors (household, service giving, industry...etc.), and make recommendations.     

-In collaboration with representatives of other sectors of the economy, ensure that energy issues are properly addressed and implemented.

-Help in the improvement, selection and standardisation of appropriate energy technologies, and promote their use in rural areas.

-Facilitate the wide dissemination of improved stoves, particularly the recently developed and popular "mogogo".

-Arrange training programmes, and assist in the repair and maintenance of energy technologies.

The Department of Energy needs to continually assess the energy needs of the largest stakeholder, the community, either through its representative at "Zone" or by other effective organised system. Horizontal and vertical communication among Government Agencies, NGO's, private sectors and other stakeholders must be established. To this effect:

  1. Means of information exchange should be created.

  2. The policy of the Department should be conveyed in clear terms.

    • The above could be achieved by:

    • An information technology net.

    • Wide distribution of newsletters, magazine, brochures, proclamation, etc.

    • Strengthening the energy database and making it available to all relevant institutions.

    • Establishing an information and other activities co-ordinating body.

The Department of Energy should create and maintain good relationships with different macro financing groups, and encourage them to play their roles in programmes and projects on rural energy development. The Department of Energy, in collaboration with the Eritrean Standard Institution, should initiate the standardisation of energy technologies to be imported/used in the country, and prepare guidelines to that effect. This will greatly reduce the types of spare parts to be purchased and also facilitate the installation of energy technologies, training and provision of technical services.
 

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