The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) and the National Association of Regional Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Tuesday held the 2nd National Renewable Energy (RE) dialogue forum, dubbed "Next steps in Renewable Energy Regulation".
The forum was held at the Sheraton Resort & Spa in Brufut. Funded by the United Nations Agency for International Development (UNAID), the forum brought together over 50 participants from across the country as well as experts from the Regulatory Commission in the US and the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.
The forum is also designed to further dialogue on national level policy on clean energy and to increase stakeholders collaboration i.e. the regulatory authority, Ministry of Energy, industry, utilities, academics, among others, in identifying tangible steps in further promoting renewable energy.
The objectives of the forum are to assess progress made on RE regulation since The Gambia National Forum on Renewable Energy Regulation was held last year from January 31st to February 1st, 2012; to promote national level discussion on clean energy policy including legal and regulatory frameworks with particular focus on the draft ne RE law; and to review the implementation of recent RE projects and identify recommendations for smoother implementation of future projects, among others.
In her opening remarks, Teneng Mba Jaiteh, the minister of Energy, recalled that sometime last year, she had the opportunity to open the first forum on behalf of the president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh, under whose purview the Energy portfolio was.
She said the personal interest of His Excellency the President in energy matters shows the high political commitment the government accords to the energy sector.
This forum, she affirmed, couldn't have come at a more opportune time for The Gambia as the development of the legal and regulatory framework for renewable energy sub-sector is at an advanced stage.
"The second forum would give an opportunity to leverage on the themes and topics developed in the first renewable energy forum, last year, which discussed key areas in the regulation of renewable energy," Minister Jaiteh noted.
"Already we have commissioned our first wind park, which has produced about 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity in seven months. As we meet here, NAWEC with co-funding from UNIDO is working to implement our first solar park in one of their provincial stations. These and other similar RE interventions demonstrate the efforts the government is taking to promote RE in the country. It is my sincere desire that these first steps would lead to bigger investments in RE," she remarked.
The Energy minister further expressed delight at having experts from the United States who would share their experiences in Renewable Energy Regulation with their Gambian counterparts. She acknowledged that the US experience in RE is hugely influencing their policy formulation especially with regard to regulation.
She opined that the US and The Gambia share a long history of partnership, adding that renewable energy is increasingly gaining significant share of their bilateral cooperation programme.
"I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank USAID for the unwavering commitment and support during the first renewable energy forum and the current one. My thanks and appreciation goes to PURA and NARUC for a well organised and coordinated forum," Minister Jaiteh said.
For his part, Richard Yoneoka, deputy chief of Mission at the US Embassy, said that sustainable energy has been a significant focus for his government, both domestically and internationally, because of its proven potential to enhance energy security and promote economic development. He added that in many developing countries, The Gambia included, advancing sustainable, domestic energy production is an important step forward in fostering investment.
Through NARUC/USAID assistance to programme, he stated, the Gambia's Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has played a leadership role in revising or adopting legislation/regulatory frameworks to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, including: development of renewable energy friendly interconnection standards, streamlining licensing procedures, developing net metering guidelines and collaborating on drafting Feed in Tariff guidelines.
Yoneoka applauded The Gambia for moving towards greater energy security, and said he looks forward to continuing their work to facilitate The Gambia's progress towards a sustainable energy sector.
In his welcoming remarks, Abdoulie Jobe, the director general of PURA, explained that the aim of the forum was to assess progress made on Renewable Energy (RE) regulation since The first Gambia National Forum on Renewable Energy Regulation last year and to promote national-level discussions on clean energy policy including legal and regulatory frameworks with a particular focus on the draft new RE law. He added that they will also review the implementation of recent RE projects and identify recommendations for smoother implementation of future projects.
"At the same time we must provide regulatory expertise in developing support schemes for renewable energy that promote investment," he noted. Jobe opined that it is also of paramount importance that they explore synergies between renewable energy and energy efficiency, benchmarked by sharing international and regional best practices and accelerate the development of their electricity market through the lessons learned in clean energy regulation.
"We in The Gambia have recognised that achieving energy independence cannot come without the integration of renewable in our generation mix. Electricity is the lifeblood of development, acceleration for growth and a catalyst for socioeconomic development. It is clear therefore that having a constant and reliable supply of electricity is a prerequisite for attaining our Vision 2020 objectives," the PURA boss affirmed.
Commenting on the area of governance, Jobe said the Government has managed to put together the draft Electricity Strategy and Feed in Tariff for The Gambia with the help of the consultants AF Mercados and the collaboration of key stakeholders through support from the European Union.
He also told the gathering that the development of a feed in tariff model by the consultants will also serve as a relevant tool in the regulation of the renewable energy sector in The Gambia. "Upon the implementation of the above projects with our total conventional generating capacity at 70MW, the RE sector will be exceeding 3 MW giving us almost 5% of Renewables in their Generation Mix," he added.
He also made reference to their draft electricity strategy and renewable energy law which portrays high renewable energy ambitions for the attainment of their 2020 targets including the realisation of a national grid as well as preparing them for cross-border exchanges of electricity in the spirit of the ECOWAS electricity master plan and the West Africa Power Pool.
Jobe thanked NARUC and USAID for sponsoring such an important workshop. "I would also continue to encourage such partnerships between USAID, NARUC and PURA to ensure the requisite capacity building and development of the competence of the workforce of the relevant stakeholders," he further remarked.
Marbara Dogget, the international programme officer of NARUC, said that NARUC has had the privilege of working alongside PURA since 2010 and has witnessed that they are playing a vital role in the growth of both legislation/regulatory frameworks that support renewable energy and energy efficiency.