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FEATURE: Togo and Cameroon assess their sustainable energy potential

Mairi Dupar of CDKN speaks with Laura Williamson, Project Director of HELIO International, who has been working with the governments of Togo and Cameroon to boost the environmental and social sustainability of their energy sectors.

The governments of Togo and Cameroon have assessed how their energy sectors score on a range of climate, environment and social measures, with the support of HELIO International, CDKN and Institut de l’energie et de l’environnement de la Francophonie (IEPF).

The assessments score the countries’ energy policies on how well they’re achieving ecodevelopment objectives – a shorthand for ‘sustainable and equitable development’ – and what they could do better.  The reports were published in late 2011 and promoted during 2012. The results highlight how energy could be harnessed more efficiently for development, and how some energy policy choices could reduce climate vulnerability and build climate resilience.

Now, the assessments are not only influencing national conversations on how energy is used in Togo and Cameroon. They have caught the attention of policy-makers in Benin and Mali, who are set to undertake similar assessments in 2013, with HELIO and CDKN support.

About the approach

In Togo and Cameroon, the assessments were carried out by teams of 4-6 experts, including government, industry and civil society representatives. They worked to collect data across 24 indicators of the TIPEE Framework, a methodology named for its French acronym.

The indicators range from greenhouse gas emissions by the energy sector – a standard measure – to the vulnerability of power plants and transmission lines to climate extremes. The Framework also assesses how energy systems are likely to respond to changes in usage during extreme climate and weather events. It explores energy governance, covering public consultation and accountability measures.

In some cases, it was hard to find adequate data to populate the indicators. “We found it particularly hard to track data on the energy consumption of each industry sector in these countries,” said Laura Williamson, Project Director at HELIO International.   “When the data just wasn’t there, we agreed on proxy indicators for the full data set, or even qualitative narratives that could tell the story,” she said. “It isn’t perfect, but it gives a good picture, and now at least Togo and Cameroon have a baseline against which progress can be measured every two or three years. HELIO’s philosophy is that is it better to approximately right than precisely wrong!”

Initial findings

The assessments found that both countries have a long way to go if their energy policies are to support ecodevelopment: overall, both Togo and Cameroon suffer from poor energy infrastructure that prevents easy, affordable access to energy services. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in both countries are paltry compared to rich nations, but inefficient use of energy resources means householders and businesses aren’t making the most of resources that are currently being exploited. Deforestation is rampant and widespread, and exacerbated in Togo by political instability that has led to forest land invasions in rural areas – all of which has depleted biomass resources. The location of power stations matters, and has not been undertaken with climate resilience in mind: 60% of the countries’ thermal power plants are at the mercy of sea level rise and coastal flooding. Cameroon is a net exporter of petroleum products but relies heavily on fossil fuel imports, which does not augur well for long term economic stability.

When it comes to governance, the assessments criticise both countries for needing to clean up their energy sectors from fraud and corruption. The reports say that public consultations should move beyond ‘box-ticking’ exercises and become meaningful, democratic processes.

Broadening the conversation                                                                                                      

For Laura Williamson, it seems as if climate change has taken a long time in coming to the energy sector. Flying the flag for climate issues can make her feel like the ‘odd one out’ in meetings with energy ministries, she laughs. Meanwhile, supporting governments to think about climate adaptation and resilience in the energy sector has been particularly challenging. When climate enters the conversation, it’s normally about climate mitigation. “I’ve had some funny looks from mentioning energy and climate adaptation in the same sentence!” she says. “In the sector as a whole, we realised that there is very little discussion about adaptation, yet it’s important from the climate perspective and also in the provision of energy services.”

It’s important for policy makers to understand the impacts of climate change on energy provision because, Ms Williamson explains: “if you have decreases in rainfall or changes in solar or wind intensity, you need to know what will happen to thermal generation, hydropower, photovoltaic, and wind power.”

Moreover,” she adds, “it’s not just about supply, it’s about users – people don’t just want energy, they want the services that come from energy like lighting, heating, cooking and economic production.” As the climate changes, people’s energy needs will change. For example, they may need less heating and more cooling in homes and businesses, or more water pumps for crop irrigation.

In Togo there’s every sign that the TIPEE assessment is influencing the national debate on energy policy. NGO representatives who were involved in the TIPEE process have drawn on the data and analysis to call for climate-smart investments as the government develops its energy policy: this process is on-going.

When the new work programme begins in Benin and Mali this year, expert assessors from Togo will be on hand to lend advice, contributing to South-South learning.  Find out more on and

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