The charge d'affaires of the United States Embassy in Banjul has stated that his country is very pleased to partner with The Gambia as it seeks to develop a renewable energy regulatory framework that encourages foreign investment and delivers reliable energy to businesses to support economic development.
Richard Yoneoka made the remarks Wednesday at a local hotel in Bijilo during the Third National Renewable Energy Forum organised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) and National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).
The US diplomat said this forum and the strong relationship that has developed between USAID, NARUG AND PURA, exemplifies what can be achieved when they work together. The aim of this partnership, he said, is to progressively build regulatory capacity through customised technical training and policy dialogues.
He applauded The Gambia's commitment to renewable energy development, citing the National Assembly's last December passing of the Renewable Energy Law, which effectively puts in place the legal and institutional framework to encourage the use of renewable energy resources.
"The law mandates the introduction of a feed-in tariff system and includes tax incentives for operators of facilities using renewable energy resources while great strides have been made already to achieve the goal of developing and modernising the country's electricity grid and associated regulatory framework," he indicated.
The diplomat acknowledged that the US continues to work with The Gambia day in and day out in the areas of education, health, agriculture, fisheries, military, law enforcement, sports and culture. He commended the results accomplished through this partnership.
"PURA has made tremendous contribution towards The Gambia's efforts to enhance energy security in the country and through support from the NARUC-USAID partnership; it has taken a leadership role in supporting renewable energy," he noted.
The diplomat stressed that as The Gambia continues to develop and seek investment in all sectors from tourism to education, from agriculture to technology, advancing a reliable and sustainable domestic energy supply is increasingly essential.
"In The Gambia, the work of US NGO "Power Up Gambia" has brought reliable electricity and water to healthcare facilities throughout the country with the mentoring of hospitals and clinics in Bansang, Somita and Bwiam which now benefit from reliable energy while providing life-saving services every day," he informed.
The deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Energy, Demba Bah at the occasion, recognised the efforts of PURA in promoting renewable energy in The Gambia given that they share the view that having a diversified energy mix is the most sustainable option for long-term economic growth.
Bah thanked the USAID and NARUC for this important partnership with the Gambia government, noting that for the past years, PURA and NARUC have been working together.
"Renewable energy is a key aspect of our national energy policy and in our energy strategy 2012-20130, renewable energy plays a key role in all scenario with solar and wind being the main resources," Bah told the gathering.
The director of Consumer Affairs at PURA, Solo Sima, said it is gratifying to watch the development of this partnership between PURA and NARUC grow from strength to strength, originating from very humble beginnings.
"This forum follows a host of smaller scale peer-to-peer partnerships and two prior forums of similar scale between PURA and NARUC and this has enabled us to share best practices in a continually dynamic field of regulation, especially when one is aided by relatively new regulatory instruments on renewable energy," he said.
Sima added that PURA, the Ministry of Energy and several stakeholders have worked tirelessly which culminated in the passage of the new Renewable Energy Law in December 2013.