The government of Sierra Leone through the Energy Minister and leading civil society and private sector representatives had made a remarkable commitment in supporting renewable energy in the country. The commitment was made on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 at the Lagonda Complex during a call to action for renewable energy access in the country.
The Call to Action and joint commitments aim to speed up the implementation of further activities, and continue to build momentum towards the country’s energy access goals. The Minister of Energy, Henry Macauley, said “today the government, private sector, donors and civil society organizations unite to make solid commitments to accelerate energy access. Most importantly, these commitments will be backed by clear, achievable and specific plans and actions. There is much to be done and we must work together as a sector, alongside our local Chieftains and community groups, to end energy poverty in Sierra Leone. I call on everyone to join us so we can achieve energy for all by 2025.”
The Team Leader for the Sierra Leone Opportunities for Business Action (SOBA), Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie, said “we have seen encouraging signs of progress on energy access in Sierra Leone and in support for the decentralized renewable sector, yet we can do better on all-important implementation. We need to do a better job of coordinating our combined efforts in realizing government priorities and objectives, the private sector, and communities. I hope this Call to Action spurs us all on to enhanced coordination and collaboration for combined impact.”
The Call to Action event was facilitated by the Power for All campaign, and saw presentations from various sector stakeholders, and an exhibition of decentralized renewable technologies. During the call to action, each group made powerful commitments to undertake activities that will accelerate the growth of the decentralized renewable energy (DRE) market that is vital for reaching 6 million people living in energy poverty. Stakeholders also pledged to work closely together in energy access planning and implementation to achieve targets, and speed up progress.
The commitments of the Sierra Leone Government included taking action to enhance the ‘green lane’ tax-exempt importation system for quality solar products, take action to better maintain solar streetlights and encourage Government Ministries to save money by adopting solar, create a comprehensive Energy Revolution market development plan, to be launched in May 2017 that will include demand Creation, public awareness campaigns to build trust and demand for solar technology, supporting the Supply Chain, working with companies, universities and the Barefoot women to build private sector technical expertise to name just a few.
On its part, the Renewable Energy Access Sierra Leone’s commitments included taking action to maintain a rigorous screening process to ensure members only sell products that meet international quality standards, collaborate with technical institutes and universities for the inclusion of renewable energy training into curriculum, and to develop accredited training programmes by working with the Ministry of Energy to design and deliver public awareness campaigns on quality off-grid solar, connecting with Paramount Chiefs and community leaders and continue to work with the Sierra Leone Association of Micro-finance Institutions on a household solar consumer financing pilot, and engage local Commercial Banks. At the event, the REASL also released policy recommendations to support the Distributable Renewable Energy market.
The Civil society, donor and sector support organization commitments were also made by Oxfam IBIS, Energizing Development, Sierra Leone Business for Opportunity and Power for All. These commitments included action to expand training support for university lecturers and government workers on DRE to include solar thermal energy and water pumping, run a scholarship program for solar PV studies that targets women, build awareness of off-grid solar through road shows, trade fairs, school campaigns and the media as well as track and map sector performance.
These commitments build on the steps already taken to increase energy access following the launch of the Sierra Leone Energy Revolution in May 2016. Since that time, the sale of off-grid solar solutions in Sierra Leone has doubled, and the country has also seen the launch of one of West Africa’s largest solar mini-grid programs. Up to 50 villages will see the installation of PV mini-grids by the end of 2017.
By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya