About 175 million citizens in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region are living without electricity.
This represents 50 per cent of the 350 million citizens in the 16 member economic block covering the entire region.
Executive Director of ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), Dr Mahama Kappiah disclosed the just ended ECOWAS Sustainable Energy Forum in Accra, capital of Ghana.
The development is a serious threat to the achievement of Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 7).
SDG 7 focuses on affordable, reliable and sustainable access to modern energy services.
This includes ensuring universal access to energy services (SDG 7.1), increasing the proportion of renewable energy sources used to supply these services (SDG 7.2) and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements globally (SDG 7.3).
Access to energy is crucial for achieving almost all of the Sustainable Development Goals, from the eradication of poverty through advancements in health, education, water supply and industrialization to combating climate change.
Energy has been described as core to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
Despite this, based on current trends there will still be 2.3 billion people globally who will not have access to clean efficient cooking technologies that protect their environment and health.
This problem must be urgently addressed to meet the targets of SDG 7 and the other SDGs, particularly those linked to mitigating climate change (such as SDG 13).
The proposed global approach is to use public funding to strongly encourage investment in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.
In particular, local capacity building to support private sector investment in decentralised energy infrastructure is seen as a key approach to enabling equitable access to energy.
The High-Level Political Forum review of SDG 7 has emphasised the importance of regional cooperation to this end the ECOWAS region since 2013 adapted ambitious sustainable energy and energy access objectives that must be attained between 2020 and 2030.
The West Africa Region possesses enormous renewable energy potential and there was the need to utilize the current energy resources it has in a more efficient manner to ensure universal access to all the citizenry by 2030, Mr Kappiah indicated.
Per the region’s own timeline rules as entrenched in the regional policies on renewable energy and energy efficiency, the region has a long way to go in achieving its targets.
In terms of the share of renewable energy in the overall electricity mix, the region was currently at just 26% which included large hydro.
The region stands short of the 35% target by 2020 and 48% by 2030.
The challenges, Mr Kappiah said called for rigorous promotion and deployment of off the grid solutions to ensure that the region attains its target by 2020.
Currently, he said the region has less than 600 operational clean energy mini-grids which falls short of the regional target of 60,000 clean energy mini-grids.
According to him, the region can boast of one gigawatts of renewable energy projects scheduled to be commissioned within the next two years which would push the region towards its global objective.
He indicated that as far as energy efficiency was concern the region was still experiencing electricity losses of up to 40% in some utilities.
He said uptake of clean cooking was still at a slow pace, and similarly energy efficiency in buildings and industry was still at a low level.
Mr Kappiah said the challenges facing the region demonstrate the need for the establishment of a robust partnership to attract major investments.
The ECOWAS sustainable Energy Forum (ESEF) is an annual forum that provides ECOWAS member states with a platform to assess progress made by national and regional levels towards achieving the 2020/2030 sustainable energy targets.
It would be recalled that the ESEF was instituted in 2017 by ECREEE to bolster efforts of member states, along with local, regional and International initiatives in harnessing the region’s vast renewable energy potential by facilitating investment in the regional energy sector.