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FEATURE: Climate proofing energy services in West Africa

CDKN speaks with Maryse Labriet, Technical Director of EERA at HELIO International, who has been working with the governments of Togo, Mali and Benin to boost the environmental and social sustainability of their energy sectors.

While past years have seen a large focus on mitigation strategies with respect to our energy use, the question of adaptation in the energy sector is often left out of the limelight, until recently. Understanding the impacts of climate change on the energy sector, including energy supply, demand and access, is critical for ensuring climate compatible development, especially in West Africa.

Hydropower generation is likely to be heavily impacted due to its sensitivity to the amount, timing and geographical pattern of precipitation. As hydropower is a primary source of electricity in much of Africa and Asia, the impact on development of any change in its availability could be significant.

“In Togo the Second National Communication prepared for the UNFCCC predicts hydropower potential could decrease by as much as 35% by 2050. In Mali, more than half of the electricity generation comes from hydropower, with precipitation decreasing by up to 20% during dry years. Another source of vulnerability is the location of thermal power plants in areas possibly exposed to flooding or sea level rise. 60% of installed energy capacity of Togo is threatened by these impacts. Coupled with that is their high dependency on biomass. In Togo, biomass productivity could decrease by up to 27% by 2025,” explains Maryse.

The Energy, Ecodevelopment and Resilience in Africa (EERA) project, delivered by HELIO International and supported by CDKN, aims to identify the conditions for a Smart Energy Path (SEP) in Togo, Mali, and Benin, strengthen the capacity of national energy experts in defining the strategic steps of a SEP by gathering available knowledge and skills and support the development of bankable energy projects.

The first stage of the EERA project is focused on a multidimensional assessment of the energy context of each country. What have the results shown?

The TIPEE methodology is based on a set of 24, easy-to-calculate indicators to evaluate how well the government is providing their citizens with accessible, clean, resilient and affordable energy services. Togo had already prepared a national report as part of a previous CDKN project, which has been updated with recent data.

The reports highlight many commonalities between the three countries including low GDP per capita, a large rural population, a large proportion of the workforce employed in the primary sector and low ratings on the Human Development Index. They also indicate high vulnerability to climate change, in particular from drought and flooding, sea level rise in Benin and Togo and desertification in Mali.

Trends emerging from the reports paint a picture of a region which is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels and biomass as an energy source.

Biomass accounts from 50 to 75% of the energy consumption of the three countries and its use is noted as a factor of deforestation in the region.

“It is interesting to note that a significant increase in energy consumption per capita is observed in Togo from 2005 to 2010, as a result of the economic growth but also because of the statistical reporting effect of successful measures implemented against illegal imports and sales of petroleum products: the part of petroleum products not accounted for in national statistics because they were not sold by the official gas stations has considerably reduced since 2008,” Maryse illustrates.

“Associated with the inefficient combustion of biomass and inefficient transport, local air quality, including household air quality, is expected to be bad in the three countries. However, systematic measurements are lacking,” says Maryse.

Other than biomass energy, a low proportion of the energy supply comes from renewable energy. The TIPEE process highlighted the lack of available data in the three countries on decentralised renewable energies, and hydropower is often the only renewable energy source recorded in national statistics.

“Bioenergy in terms of advanced biofuels for local use is an area of interest and policy strategies in this area are underexplored, or sometimes weakly defined when promoting, for example, energy crops in arable areas. There needs to be an exploration of the potential for biogas, from manure or agricultural processes, in these countries”, argues Maryse. “In Mali, the National Agency for Development of Biofuels (ANADEB) was recently created with the objective of reducing the imports of fossil fuels thanks to the development of biofuels”.

Access to electricity in the three countries is still low, around 25% at national levels, and less than 6% in rural areas. In Mali national statistics indicate a higher rate of access to electricity in rural areas of 18% in 2012. Maryse explains that the reason Mali’s figure is so much higher is because of different definitions of access to electricity.

“In Mali, the statistic includes public lighting, and each public lighting point is considered to reach 133 persons. Instead of supplying light to each household, there has been a drive by government to increase public lighting, in market areas and street lighting, as a first step in electrification. Public lighting has two important impacts: it promotes productive uses like longer working hours and it improves security for women involved in informal markets”.

However, in general the energy sectors in the three countries are characterised by poor governance, low inclusiveness, and a lack of local expertise on energy matters.

The second stage of the EERA project explores the Smart Energy Path (SEP) methodology, developed by HELIO.

The SEP methodology is an approach to energy planning that aims to meet human development needs while ensuring environmental sustainability and participatory governance. It promotes such principles as a focus on renewable energy, diversified energy supplies, flexible energy sources, and greater accessibility. What makes the SEP approach unique is that it focuses on energy ‘services’ rather than energy ‘supply’. Energy for its own sake is valueless. While energy services such as heating, transportation, lighting, and refrigeration have considerable value in development perspectives.

It makes sense to focus on the provision of energy services to the poor, rather than simply just the overall energy supply. For example, less than 9% of the health centers of peri-urban and rural areas of Togo are electrified, the implications of which are huge for development.

In the coming months the Togo team will explore how to define the basis of a SEP approach. A key outcome of this work will be a framework document that maps out how Togo can begin developing a SEP approach on its own. The application to a concrete case study will illustrate how the approach contributes to create favourable conditions for bankable projects that support climate compatible development objectives.

Ultimately the success of the project will depend on developing a portfolio of project ideas for each country.

“When EERA stops, we want the countries to have some project ideas with which to approach international funders, as well as having multi-stakeholder Liaison Committees in place to engage with decision-makers”, says Maryse.

For more information visit the CDKN project page or the HELIO EERA project page.

Image courtesy of David Muñoz

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