ATC0319: Report on International Parliamentary Hearing for Southern African Legislators [Climate Change and Energy Access for the Poor]; Maputo, Mozambique
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Energy: International Parliamentary Hearing for Southern African Legislators [Climate Change and Energy Access for the Poor]; Maputo, Mozambique; dated 9 March 2010
A delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Energy was invited to, and attended the International Parliamentary Hearing for Southern African Legislators on Climate Change and Energy Access for the Poor; held in Maputo, Mozambique on 18-20 September 2009. The hearing was organized by the e-Parliament, with the financial support of the European Commission and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
2. Delegation and other participants
The Portfolio Committee on Energy delegation:
* Ms E Thabethe [Chairperson]
* Mr G Selau [ANC]
* Mr P Mbele [Committee Secretary]
Sixteen other legislators from the Southern African Region gathered for the hearing together with experts on climate change, gender, rural electrification and renewable energy. Participating countries included Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.
3. Background and objectives
The objectives of the hearing encompassed the following;
- To provide an opportunity for the legislators to question experts and discuss how the growing demand for energy in an age of rising fuel prices can most effectively be met, whilst simultaneously addressing the growing dangers of climate change and ensuring that the poor have adequate access to energy.
- The hearing would focus on how to provide electricity to poor rural communities distant from the national grid, as well as issues relating to gender and energy.
- The focus would be on the impact of climate change and the energy situation in the Southern Africa region. It would also look at the possibilities for providing energy to the rural poor and options for tapping into the region’s huge potential for renewable energies, such as solar, biomass, wind and hydro. In particular, focus would also be on the question of whether mini-grid systems powered by renewable energy sources could be a solution for rural electrification.
- The hearing would be action-oriented; focusing on concrete steps that MPs can take there and then in their own parliaments.
This was the fifth International parliamentary hearing in a series of nine organized by the e-Parliament for African, Caribbean and Pacific legislators between 2008 and 2010.
4. Action Ideas Discussed
4.1 Field Trip to Djabula
The hearing began on Friday, 18th September with a field trip to Djabula, a village in the Maputo province, two hours by road from the capital, that has been electrified using photovoltaic panels. Accompanied by two engineers from the Mozambican National Energy Fund (Fundo Nacional de Energia - FUNAE), legislators from the Southern African Region saw firsthand how the people from this rural village have benefited from the energy provided by the solar panels combined with batteries.
The installation of solar systems in Djabula in 2004 was one of the first projects implemented by FUNAE, the government institution responsible for rural electrification in Mozambique. According to the project coordinator, FUNAE financed the installation of the solar systems (at a cost of US$3000 per system) and the beneficiaries pay a symbolic rate of US$2 to $5 per month.
The MPs had the opportunity to see how solar panels provide clean and reliable electricity to the school, health centre, teacher’s residence and 45 other households. They also had the chance to see how a water pumping system powered by photovoltaics provides water to the whole village. This installation particularly benefits the women and girls who in the past had to walk 15 kilometres to fetch water. The project coordinator explained that the systems work even when there is no sun, as energy stored in the batteries provide electricity for up to three days. The Djabula community leader said that the population understands the benefits of the solar systems and that the beneficiaries are even willing to pay a fee for the services provided.
4.2 Climate Change and its Impact in Southern Africa
Professor Coleen Vogel of the University of the Witwatersrand made a presentation on the current and expected impact of climate change in the Southern African region where changes in weather patterns were likely to cause severe water shortages and affect food production. She emphasized the need for urgent action in reducing CO2 emissions and the importance of combining both mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimize the negative consequences of climate change on the region’s poorest people.
4.3 Gender and Energy
Kulthoum Omari, who represented ENERGIA, addressed the legislators on the crucial issue of mainstreaming gender concerns into energy policies. Although African women are usually still responsible for collecting firewood and thereby securing energy for the household, their needs are not addressed in most rural electrification projects. Ms. Omari explained that “Gender Audits” can be one useful tool in identifying existing gaps in energy policies and programmes and focusing attention on ways to overcome them.
Ms Omari also presented other recommendations to the MPs to stimulate gender-sensitive energy policies, such as promoting budget allocation (within the Ministry of Energy) for specific gender and energy activities, encourage the establishment of a Ministry of Gender with sufficient resources and decision-making power to coordinate gender mainstreaming in other Ministries and to promote the participation of women in the actual formulation of energy policies.
4.4 Energy Access Through Mini-Grid Systems Based On Renewable Energies
Mr Stephen Muthimba (Director, Camco Kenya) briefed the MPs on the advantages of decentralized options for energy supply over grid extension, which is often costly where small populations live far apart – as in rural areas. He explained that decentralized mini-grid systems, powered by several installations and possibly a range of different sources such as sun, wind, hydro or biomass, can provide clean power to remote rural communities, at relatively low costs, and that this can contribute to poverty alleviation.
Mr. Mutimba finished by pointing out the following steps parliamentarians can take to implement these systems:
1. Assess the needs of a community and the resource availability. This can depend on factors such as availability of renewable energy sources, energy needs of the local populations (cooking, water pumping, lighting), access to existing electricity distribution networks and the consumers’ ability to pay for the energy service.
2. Identify initiatives & local ‘champions’ (CBOs, NGOs, business) behind these initiatives, promote focused discussions to identify the problems they face in managing their projects with the objective of reaching a ‘critical mass’ on the ground to support policy change.
3. Convene ‘Policy Dialogues’ with the help of ‘champions’. This may range from discussion with government officers on enforcement of existing law to moving a motion in parliament. Mr. Mutimba emphasised that MPs need to make sure they have the support of beneficiary communities, local leaders, NGOs and businesses. It’s vital that they research different options and discuss with colleagues so they have a thorough understanding of the chosen policies they want to pursue.
4.5 The Mozambican Experience
Supplementing the observations from the Djabula field trip, Dr. Miquelina Menezes, president of FUNAE, shared Mozambique’s experience in implementing these systems, highlighting the success that Solar-PV mini-grids are having in bringing affordable electricity to the scattered rural Mozambican population.
4.6 An innovative Financial Scheme to Finance Mini-Grids in Developing Countries
Mauricio Peralta, Energy Specialist at the Organization of American States (OAS), opened the session on Sunday and presented a new financial scheme to promote renewable energy mini-grids in un-electrified rural areas. Mr Peralta, pointed out that there are a number of barriers that need to be overcome before mini-grids can be deployed in Southern Africa, emphasizing the need to strengthen legal and regulatory framework for independent power producers and to create incentives to minimise financial risks. Therefore, well-adapted financial schemes, such as the “Renewable Energy Premium Tariff (RPT)”, are essential for the dissemination of off-grid renewable energies.
Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) have been successful in promoting the use of renewables in many parts of the world – notably in Germany, Denmark and Spain. The RPT is an adaptation of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) concept to Southern African countries based on lessons learnt from successful policy and implementation in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Mauritius and South Africa.
Mauricio Peralta finished by highlighting some key aspects for successful RPT legislation; namely, that it is important to determine which renewable energy technologies and what size of generating plants will be covered by the law; to determine appropriate RPT tariff rate; guarantee the tariff rate over a specific period of time; determine an effective way of financing the RPT (through a governmental electrification fund or international donors); impose a priority purchase obligation (grid operators are obliged to connect RE producers to the grid and must transmit the electricity they produce).
The legislators then agreed through dialogue that:
1. There is a need for widespread awareness of gender differences when designing energy policies. Men and women have different energy needs and these differences have to be accounted for when providing a rural community with electricity. Gender audits, like the one developed in Botswana, can help identify gender gaps in energy policies and suggest ways to address them.
2. When planning rural electrification, the characteristics and the needs of communities
need to be surveyed to assess whether a certain community can have grid electricity in the near future. If extending the grid is not economically feasible it needs to be determined which off-grid options - stand alone systems or mini-grids - are the most suitable.
3. The legislators unanimously agreed on the importance of building capacity within Southern Africa and stimulating the local production of renewable technologies (such as solar panels) instead of relying on expensive imports. This would not only increase access to these systems and accelerate the deployment of renewables, but would also create jobs in the region.
4. Feasibility studies on the potential for solar thermal power should be conducted, especially in the countries with the highest solar irradiation levels such as Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. Furthermore, possibilities for sharing this and other renewable sources through regional HVDC links should also be assessed.
5. A number of options were discussed regarding the financing of renewable energies in the region. As has been demonstrated in some African countries, Feed-in tariffs can help encourage the uptake of on-grid renewable energies. Given that the European-style FIT scheme may not always be suitable for off-grid rural electrification, the “Renewable Energy Premium Tariff” - that combines the key aspects of a FIT with government or international funding – was discussed as a promising way to promote mini-grids in remote areas.
6. Introducing a charge on grid-connected users, encouraging financial institutions to offer soft-loans for RE projects and offering tax breaks and lower import tariffs for RE technologies and necessary materials were other financing options discussed by MPs and experts.
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