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The Potential for Small and Medium Scale Renewables in Poverty Reduction in Africa

Compiled by

Stephen Karekezi, Waeni Kithyoma and Jennifer Wangeci


Executive Summary

Energy is critical to the development and environment of Africa. At the level of the individual citizen, access to affordable and environmentally sound energy services is required to ensure food security (e.g. energy for cooking and agriculture), adequate health (e.g. energy for health centres) and transportation (e.g. fuel for transport). At the sector level, energy is vital for proper operations in the industrial, agricultural, transportation & communication, education and heath sectors.

Inappropriate development can also lead to serious inequities with the majority poor (especially women) being denied access to adequate and modern energy services. Consumption of modern energy in Eastern and Southern Africa is very low. Household electrification is low, especially in rural areas, where the majority of the population resides.

Figures for Eastern and Southern African countries indicate that a high proportion of total national energy supply is derived from biomass energy, which is often used in its traditional and unprocessed form. Traditional biomass energy use has serious environmental drawbacks. The indoor air pollution from unvented biofuel cooking stoves is a major contributor to respiratory illnesses in highland areas of Eastern and Southern Africa. Reliance on biomass (especially in the form of charcoal) also encourages land degradation.

Renewables can play an important role in addressing the above problems in the energy sector of eastern and southern Africa. The region is endowed with substantial renewable energy resources. The region has significant small hydropower capacity, significant geothermal potential and abundant biomass, solar and wind potential (Karekezi and Ranja, 1997). However, this potential has not been fully exploited, mainly due to limited policy interest and investment levels. Renewable energy technologies can also play a major role in national development in terms of poverty reduction, gender empowerment, job creation and income generation as well as providing an environmentally sound energy service.

This report presents the findings of a study on the role of small and medium-scale renewables in poverty reduction, environmental stability, gender and economic development. The first chapter presents the status of the energy sector in Africa, the status of renewables in Africa, and the link between poverty and energy consumption. Chapter 2 highlights the approach and methodology used in undertaking the study. The third chapter discusses the status of selected small scale renewables in Africa. These include: improved cookstoves, ram pumps, small hydro (micro, mini and pico), solar cookers, solar driers, solar water pasteurizers, treadle pumps and wind pumps. Chapter four then presents case studies of renewables that have had a positive impact on poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, gender and economic development.

The fifth chapter briefly discusses the barriers facing the renewables industry in Africa and the key factors to be considered in establishing or developing the industry. Chapters six and seven present the key study findings and recommendations, respectively.

The following is a summary of the key findings of the study:

Energy Consumption, Renewables and Poverty in Africa
a) Biomass is the major source of energy consumed in households and industries. Majority of biomass users are the poor.

b) Africa has substantial new and renewable energy resources, with more than 3,140 TWh of exploitable technical hydro-power potential, more than 9,000 MW of geothermal potential, abundant biomass potential, substantial solar potential, and, in some countries, significant wind potential. In spite of this potential, renewable sources contribute less than 1% of the region's primary energy supply. The region has hot water steam based power generation only.

c) Poverty levels in Africa are rising which in turn are increasing the low levels of modern energy consumption

Role of Small Scale Renewables in Poverty Reduction, Environment Sustainability, Gender Empowerment and Economic Development

a) The case studies presented highlight and demonstrate that small and medium-scale renewables: increase incomes, create employment opportunities, promote gender economic empowerment, and, reduce tasks drudgery among women and children

b) Improved cookstoves and treadle pumps are the most commonly used technologies among the poor

c) Dissemination of cookstoves is very high. In the two towns surveyed in Mombasa (Kenya), all respondents indicated that they use improved cookstoves

d) Treadle pumps and wind pumps have led to increased agricultural productivity in rural areas (leading to increased incomes) and the wind pumps have improved water supply for remote populations. The pumps have also contributed to industrial development by giving rise to a new manufacturing industry

e) Whereas 70% of treadle pumps are bought by men, it is the women who manage, control and benefit from additional incomes and reduced labour

f) Solar driers are not as widespread as improved cookstoves, treadle pumps or wind pumps. However, they are successfully being used in the agro-processing industry. The successful introduction of solar driers depends on their ability to generate income for their users. Solar drying is more beneficial at group level than to the individual

g) There is a large emphasis on welfare-oriented renewable energy technologies leading to high awareness of improved cookstoves and solar cookers.

h) There is limited of documentation on the role of renewables in poverty reduction and limited data on the dissemination of small and medium-scale renewables

Establishing a Small Scale Renewable Industry in Africa

a) Small and medium-scale renewable energy technologies create employment opportunities since their products are locally manufactured and assembled.
b) Small and medium-scale renewable energy technologies are low cost as the bulk of their raw material used in their manufacture/assembly are locally available and therefore are not subject to import tax and/or duties.

c) The choice of technology for dissemination and development in sub-Saharan Africa should take into account the existing technical knowledge and local industries. Renewable energy technologies that improve existing methods and build on already established industries are likely to be successfully disseminated, and can become self-sustainable in the long term.

d) The importance of technical know-how in the increased utilisation of small/medium-scale renewables has been recognised in the region, but there remains a continuing shortage of qualified personnel. Trained manpower capable of developing and manufacturing renewable energy technologies is a prerequisite for their successful dissemination.

e) Financial and economic barriers that have affected the growth of a local small and medium-scale renewable energy industry include: high initial capital costs; pricing distortions which place renewable energy at a disadvantage; and, absence of low-cost, long-term financing.

f) There is a limited government budget allocation to renewables. Africa’s renewable energy industry is unlikely to register significant development and dissemination without supportive government policies, which are backed by the requisite budgetary allocations.

Energy Budget Allocation to Renewable Energy Development (%) in Botswana, Ethiopia and Kenya

Year

Botswana

Ethiopia

Kenya *

Kenya **

1991

 

2.84

0.08

0.91

1992

8.37

2.09

0.11

0.40

1993

0.59

1.55

0.11

0.56

1994

0.08

3.57

0.09

0.28

1995

0.13

5.03

0.04

0.39

1996

0.26

0.46

0.00

0.00

1997

1.47

0.06

0.07

0.40

1998

1.93

0.08

0.01

0.70

1999

1.33

0.03

0.01

1.35

2000

0.83

0.05

0.00

1.39

2001

 

 

0.02

2.14

2002

 

 

0.01

4.40

Notes
Kenya * - small-scale renewable development
Kenya ** - includes allocation for geothermal exploration
 


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