Ahmedabad | May 19-21, 2017
A multi-stakeholder meeting on “Working towards Channeling Public Finance towards Clean Energy Access between India and Africa” was organized by Vasudha Foundation in collaboration with PACJA (Pan African Climate Justice Alliance), SELCO and TERI University. The meeting took place at Hotel Hyatt, Ahmedabad, from 19th to 21st May 2017. This meeting aimed at bringing together institutions, financiers, NGOs and individuals from India and Africa working on different areas of energy issues. Civil Society Groups, Financiers, Entrepreneurs from renewable energy space, policy makers were among those who came to share the floor. Main objective of this convention was to initiate a process of sharing information, ideas, and solutions and form associations to find a way for increasing financing of clean energy and its access.
Ms. Astrid Manroth, AGM, African Development Bank Group, inaugurated the meeting. She told that African Development Bank has so far invested $2bn in renewable energy in Africa. The bank is also investing in climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. AfDB aims to invest more in energy sector by 2020 which would help Africa avoid 700 tonnes of CO2.
The first session focused mainly on energy status and overview of India and different African countries.
Mr Soumya Dutta, Convenor of Climate and Energy Group, BCPH, presented energy overview of India. He said that for low and medium income countries, including India, electricity is only a small portion of total energy (~14% in India). Percentage of electricity increases with level of wealth and degree of urbanization. Over 58% rural Indian families still depend on non-commercial energy. During the 1960s industries used to consume two-third of electricity which has come down to one-third at present. Moving towards clean energy is our government’s stated emphasis, with a renewed focus on distributed/ rooftop solar which is targeted at 40GW by 2022. He also highlighted with government data that India can and should fulfill all its incremental energy needs from new renewables.
Ms. Augustine Njamnshi, PACJA Cameroon, remarked that development cannot be separated from energy. Mainly renewable energy drives the need. Central African region has hydropower as main energy source. Installed capacity is 79% hydropower and 19% thermal. 80% people use wood-based energy for working, preservation etc.
Some key constraints like the slow pace of power project implementation, unsustainable power tariff and lack of coordination of the trans-boundary regional projects were highlighted by Ms. Sonny Tracy who is from Botswana Climate Change Network. Most of the power generation and transmission equipment in Botswana are very old and new infrastructure is being built. Coal is the main source of power followed by hydro.
Mr. Benson Ireri from Christian Aid gave an overview of energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa. East Africa is the most affected region in terms of lack of access to energy. Electrification rate is very low i.e. 22% and hydropower accounts for 50% of the energy mix. Kenya is the only country exploring geothermal energy.
The session was followed by discussions. Participants from Africa were very positive about the meeting as they felt that exchange of views and experiences is very important to find solutions to bring changes. One of the concerns that were raised in the meeting was the level of small scale projects. One key concern expressed by several RE entrepreneurs from Africa is that the AfDB is to play a catalytic role in promoting renewable energy in Africa, but it cannot fund small-scale projects because of administrative reasons, even if those small projects are feasible and viable. Given that the level of private venture capital support is still not developed in most African countries, where do these small ventures go? There were no straight answers to this but Ms Astrid suggested that larger entities with state backing might play aggregating and hand holding roles for smaller and innovative ventures.
The next session focused on energy access situation in India and Africa.
Ms. Mary Beth, Rural Women Upliftment Society, works in collaboration with SELCO, on solar energy access in Manipur. They have a linkage with Canara Bank to finance solar lights. Key challenges faced by them include the amount of security money to be deposited with the bank, only a small percentage of solar water pumps have been installed.
Mr. Sudipto Ghosh, SELCO India, said that we need to first understand the need and then design solution. SELCO is trying to understand risks and challenges of serving energy to the poor. It creates channels for end use customers. It reaches out to very poor and isolated household.
Ms Gilda Claudia, Loja De Energia, Mozambique, told that 60% population lacks access to grid electricity, poor infrastructure in rural areas is another problem and locals do not have enough money to pay for grid connection.
The third session focused on interlinking of energy and livelihoods wherein Ms. Jayshree Vyas from SEWA Bank, Ahmedabad, highlighted the objectives of the bank, which include helping women financially to come out of poverty and giving energy loans. Urja, an energy initiative of SEWA Bank and SELCO, aims at supplying affordable sources of energy and products to women. The products include solar lights, solar lanterns, head lamps, Annapurna Stove etc.
Collaboration between energy product suppliers, innovators and financial institution is needed.
Energy access improves through income improvement. NABARD is focusing on low cost micro-irrigation technology, distribution of solar lanterns and installing drip irrigation system.
In another session entrepreneurs from renewable energy space shared their experience in the field of solar, wind biogas based startups and showed us how renewables can create opportunities and provide clean energy.
Mr. Pranav Mehta from National Solar Energy Federation presented an overview of India’s solar potential with the help of actively implementing states. India’s solar target for 2022 is 100 GW (40 GW from rooftop and 60 GW from on-grid), and this ambitious target is likely to be achieved, he said.
It was followed by detailed discussions on the urgency to form networks to enhance partnerships between Africa and India. Everyone was of the opinion that unlike other ineffective consultations this meeting should make some difference in terms of India-Africa collectively working on renewable energy and energy access related issues. Africa is blessed with enormous amounts of clean and safe renewable energy and renewable energy can provide a whole new space to small entrepreneurs, while fulfilling the entire additional energy needs of its population, its industry and mobility needs.African continent hasa huge potential to develop a strong solar market but currently it has only 1.92 GW solar installed capacity which is less than 1% of the world’s solar capacity.Not just solar but wind energy is also gaining ground in Africa and India is among the top wind energy producing countries – with both indigenous technology development and manufacturing base. Thus strong India-Africa networking and close collaborations can show a way forward in terms of the new energy transition with equity and justice.
A field visit to one MW Solar PV Power Project installed at PDPU campus, Gandhinagar,was organized on the third day. The first project visited, a One-MW solar PV installation, was constructed by Sun Edison and comes under Global Solar Council. It uses a stationary, single axis tracking system. The plant generates around 1.7 million units per year. It generates 4000-5000 units/day for 330 days. Peak time for solar power generation is November to March. The university is totally electricity independent. It is the first grid connected solar plant in Gujarat. They signed an agreement for Rs 15/unit for the first 12 years to provide power to main grid.Another visit was to an Ashram where rooftop solar was setup by Zodiac Energy.
There were discussions among the GERMI (Gujarat Energy Research & Management Institute) staff and African delegates regarding the technology and future of solar energy.Although China is leading in investing on renewable and clean energy, the falling prices of solar tariffs in India shows its acceptability which can help Africa to adopt this faster. Issues highlighted during the meeting like expensive power generation, transmission and distribution networks can also be addressed by solar energy.