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Osinbajo, Ogunbiyi: How clean energy investments offer Nigeria, others huge opportunities

Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) has launched a new guide that shows how African countries can leverage clean energy investments as drivers to quicken recovery from the COVID-19 induced economic distress. The Vienna-headquartered organisation launched the ‘Recover Better’ guide on June 30. STEPHEN ONYEKWELU highlights key themes in the guide. 

Sustainable Energy for All has developed the Recover Better with Sustainable Energy Guide for African Countries to aid these countries as they develop post COVID-19 recovery plans and stimulus packages. The guide is part of a series which includes guides for countries in the Caribbean region and Southeast Asia region is due to be released soon.

Released on June 30, the Recover Better with Sustainable Energy Guide for African Countries says countries that commit to an ambitious recover better strategy today can deliver long term economic growth, new jobs, and sustainable energy for all in the long-term.

This is critical for Africa after COVID-19. The Recover Better guide has highlighted the deep regional divide in energy access progress. Africa is a region full of promise and a growing economic powerhouse, yet this progress will be stifled without access to sufficient, reliable and affordable energy.

Damilola Ogunbiyi

Some of the recommendations in the Recover Better, SEforALL have emphasised the need for governments to adopt and ensure a successful energy transition in this period. To achieve this goal, African countries need to improve on the ease of doing business. This means that governments need to strive towards creating a supportive business environment that ensures investments flow fast. This entails significantly reducing red tape, reducing the number of permits required and time it takes to get permits or waivers (if available) for renewable energy and clean cooking equipment and appliances.

African countries are strongly advised to set robust policies and empower national institutions to drive development. Governments need to work to establish or empower institutions such as regulators and rural electrification agencies to ensure the right frameworks are in place to successfully drive the development of renewables, increased electrification and access to clean cooking.

“COVID-19 has changed the world as we knew it. As countries rebuild economies from the impact of the pandemic, they are faced with a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity to ‘Recover Better’ with sustainable energy”, said Damilola Ogunbiyi, chief executive and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of UN-Energy.

“There has never been a better time to invest in clean, efficient renewable energy. Countries that recover better with sustainable energy will see the payoff in the form of resilient economies, new jobs, and faster energy development. By making this investment, African countries can develop a competitive advantage,” Ogunbiyi said.

Other recommendations in the Recover Better guide include the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. With the price of oil at its lowest in 18 years; governments must take this opportunity to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. When the price of fossil fuels rises again, governments should refrain from re-introducing the subsidy.

A movement towards cost-reflective tariffs has also been recommended as an important factor to reap the fruits in the Recover Better guide. The natural tendency for countries could be to cut the cost of electricity, but this should be avoided. The reality is that electricity is largely consumed by wealthier households, industrial or commercial clients. Governments are then persuaded to allow cost-reflective tariffs that enhance utilities to perform better and increases investments in energy access and clean energy.

The Recover Better with Sustainable Energy Guide for African Countries makes a case for investment in robust data and recommends the declaration of a moratorium on new coal-fired power. Other forms of investments go to energy efficiency and in people so they can take advantage of new clean energy jobs.

The latest data on Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7) – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 – shows that progress in Africa is still off track to meet global targets. Over 565 million people still lack access to electricity, and a further 900 million lack clean cooking solutions. The pandemic risks setting progress even further behind.

By acting on the enabling measures put forward in The Recover Better with Sustainable Energy Guide, countries across Africa will benefit from increased gross domestic product, affordable energy provision, and improved agriculture, gender and health outcomes.

This re-set can also spark progress at the speed and scale needed to meet SDG7 and help put the global economy on a trajectory in line with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

On the launch of the guide, Yemi Osinbajo, vice President of Nigeria said COVID-19 has presented a unique opportunity to accelerate the transition to that clean, affordable, reliable and renewable energy source offered by the sun.

“Nigeria is committed to the full utilisation of this abundant solar energy source. The Federal Government has already removed fossil fuel subsidies and included five million solar connections in our post-COVID-19 economic sustainability plan – first steps to new jobs and a cleaner, healthier environment. We commend Sustainable Energy for All for producing this practical ‘Recover Better’ guide that will help African governments close the energy access gap and deliver economic growth for the benefit of our people.”

The global economy is increasingly being powered by clean and efficient sources of energy. According to some research outcomes, dollar for dollar investments in clean energy creates three times the number of jobs compared to fossil fuels. Every 1,000 customers connected to decentralised energy solutions – solar home systems or solar mini-grids – supports approximately 25 jobs.

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations, said, “access to sustainable energy is pivotal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. As we work to recover better from the impacts of COVID-19, African countries have the opportunity to drive faster progress on the energy transition with efficient, renewable energy that protects the most vulnerable, delivers sustainable growth and supports climate action.”

Similarly, Riccardo Puliti, World Bank Global Director for Energy and Extractive Industries and Regional Director for Infrastructure in Africa said “access to energy is crucial for Africa to recover from the ongoing health, economic and social challenges caused by the pandemic. We welcome this new guide from Sustainable Energy for All that outlines ways in which African countries can seize this unique moment, and in return, unleash economic growth with clean, sustainable energy.”

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