East Africa: EAC Focuses On Renewable Energy Sources

The East African Community (EAC) partner states have reaffirmed their commitment to enhance energy efficiency and exploit wind, solar, and geothermal energy as sustainable energy sources for the region.

According to a statement posted on the community website, partner states have subsequently embarked on various initiatives to tap into the potential of renewable energy and energy conservation.

The initiatives include the review of national renewable energy laws, implementation of energy management regulations, national strategies and standards for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and promotion of energy efficiency and conservation.

During the Ministerial Session of the 16th Sectoral Council of Energy held at the EAC Headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, partner states reported that investments in wind and solar energy infrastructure were underway.

For example, Burundi is working on solar mini-grids, and Kenya is involved in wind and solar projects. All these efforts aim to increase renewable energy contributions to the national grid.

Rwanda and Tanzania have reported increased investment in solar energy projects, while Uganda is focusing on solar energy deployment for rural electrification.

The ministers were informed that the partner states were also exploring mini-hydro projects and transforming biomass energy sources.

Initiatives range from promoting sustainable charcoal production to implementing clean cooking solutions and bioenergy strategies.

The ministers noted updates on ongoing fossil fuel projects and underscored the region's commitment to fossil fuel sub-sector development.

Notable progress includes Kenya's commercial oil discovery in the South Lokichar basin within the Tertiary rift basin, with an estimated 2.9 billion barrels and a recoverable estimate of 585 million barrels.

Other updates included Tanzania's preparations for the 5th licensing round of oil and natural gas exploration blocks on both onshore and offshore areas, with the aim of attracting more investors.

Uganda's petroleum resource development projects and the progress in the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project, whose actual installation of pipes on the ground is scheduled to begin in May 2024.

Rwanda is utilising methane gas for electricity generation.

In promoting petroleum exploration and development in the region, the Sectoral Council approved the 11th East African Petroleum Conference and Exhibition 2025 (EAPCE'25) to be held from March 5th to 7th next year in Tanzania.

Regarding power connectivity in the region, the region has a total power supply installed capacity of 7,381.67 Megawatts, while the total system peak demand stands at 4,811.2 Megawatts.

The regional per capita electricity consumption ranges from 25 kilowatt hours in Burundi to 153 kilowatt hours in Kenya.

The ministers noted that challenges in electricity supply persist, particularly due to vandalism of electricity infrastructure.

To combat this issue, partner states have committed to implementing mitigation measures such as copper-plated earth rods, regulating scrap metal transactions, and community sensitisation.

During the opening session of the Ministerial Session, the Chairperson Shaib Hassan Kaduara, the Minister of Water, Energy and Minerals from the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, standing for the Republic of South Sudan, which is the current Chair, emphasised the significance of the energy sector in achieving socio-economic development of the Community.

"Energy plays a critical role in industrial development and investment promotion and therefore access to reliable, safe and cost-effective energy is not optional but compulsory if our region is to realise its development objectives," said Mr Kaduara.

The minister extended an invitation to partner states to the official launch of Tanzania's Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant scheduled for February 25th this year.

"This hydropower plant has a capacity of generating 2,115 Megawatts. The launch of this project is a milestone that will reduce the deficit of electricity not only in Tanzania but in the entire region," he added.

In her remarks, the EAC Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Customs, Trade and Monetary Affairs, Ms Annette Ssemuwemba, said that the EAC has rich energy resources, most of which remain untapped.

"Most people still rely on biomass, which is inefficiently utilised and degrades our environment," said Ms Ssemuwemba, who represented EAC Secretary-General Dr Peter Mathuki at the meeting.

"As a region, we must focus on sufficient, reliable and cost-effective energy to meet our development needs. In this regard, there is a need to come up with recommendations for solutions that will guide the sector," she added.

Also present at the meeting were the Minister of Hydraulic, Energy and Mines from the Republic of Burundi, Engineer Ibrahim Uwizeye and Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for EAC, the ASALs and Regional Development, Ms Peninah Malonza.

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