Climate Change and Energy Access for the Poor
International parliamentary hearing for Southern African legislators
September 18th-20th, Maputo, Mozambique
Legislators, experts and members of the e-Parliament staff at the village of Djabula, two hours from Maputo. Djabula was one of the first rural villages in the country to benefit from off-grid PV solar power.
This was the fifth international parliamentary hearing in a series of nine organized by the e-Parliament for African, Caribbean and Pacific legislators between 2008 and 2010. Previous hearings took place in Kenya, Ghana, Tobago and Guyana.
19 legislators from the Southern African Region gathered for the hearing together with experts on climate change, gender, rural electrification and renewable energy.. Members of Parliament from Lesotho, Mauritius, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia first participated in a field trip to Djabula - a rural village in the Maputo Province that has been electrified with solar photovoltaic panels provided by the Mozambican National Energy Fund (Fundo Nacional de Energia - FUNAE).
For the full hearing report in pdf click here.
The MPs saw first-hand how the solar systems combined with batteries provide clean and reliable energy to a number of public facilities and households in the village. They also heard from Djabula’s community leader how the villagers are benefiting from solar power. Thanks to a water pump powered by PV panels, young girls and women no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water, and the solar powered batteries provide light in the school at night and enable the parents of the children to go to school too.
In the two days that followed, the legislators heard and questioned experts on options to tackle climate change and improve access to energy for poor rural communities.
Coleen Vogel of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa gave the MPs a wake-up call with a brief, but hard-hitting presentation on the current and expected impacts of climate change in the Southern African region where changes in weather patterns are likely to cause severe water shortages and affect food production. Given this scenario, she emphasized the need for urgent action in reducing C02 emissions and the importance of combining both mitigation and adaptation strategies to minimize the negative consequences of climate change on the region’s poorest people.
Kulthoum Omari, representing ENERGIA, addressed the legislators on the crucial issue of mainstreaming gender concerns into energy policies. Although African women are usually still responsible for collecting firewood and thereby securing energy for the household, their needs are not addressed in most rural electrification projects. Ms. Omari explained that “Gender Audits” can be one useful tool in identifying existing gaps in energy policies and programmes and focusing attention on ways to overcome them.
Opening the debate on rural electrification, Stephen Mutimba briefed the MPs on the advantages of decentralized options for energy supply over grid extension, which is often costly where small populations live far apart – as in rural areas. He explained that decentralized mini-grid systems, powered by a several installations and possibly a range of different sources such as sun, wind, hydro or biomass, can provide clean power to remote rural communities, at relatively low costs, and that this can contribute to poverty alleviation. Dr. Miquelina Menezes, president of FUNAE, shared Mozambique’s experience in implementing these systems, highlighting the success that Solar-PV mini-grids are having in bringing affordable electricity to the scattered rural Mozambican population.
Mauricio Peralta presented a promising tool to create incentives that minimise the financial risks associated with implementing mini-grids in rural areas. He explained that the “Renewable Energy Premium Tariff”combines the key aspects of European-style Feed-in-Tariff scheme with government or international funding. This can provide security for investors and thus help the spread of renewable energies to remote areas.
Cheddi Kiravu, from the University of Botswana, briefed the legislators about the potential of solar thermal power (STP) in Southern Africa. MPs were excited to hear that the region, particularly the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, has one of the highest solar irradiation levels in the world and thus almost perfect conditions for the use of this technology. As Prof. Kiravu highlighted, this vast resource could then be shared throughout the region through HVDC links.
For the full hearing report in pdf click here.