Energy-efficiency plays a pivotal role in Africa’s energy balance

(eceee news, 11 Jun 2019) A surge in energy demand is on the way that could sink any hope of preventing climate chaos. At a side event at eceee’s Summer Study, on and off-grid solutions including pathways towards stricter appliance standards and effective compliance were outlined to counter this surge.

Africa’s population is set to double by 2050 to around 2.5 billion people – this, coupled with rapid economic growth - will create an explosive rise in energy needs across the world’s least electrified continent.

Most Africans still lack energy connections despite a UN call for universal access within a decade.

But there is “a slim chance” of that goal - and the Paris climate target – being met without an energy efficiency revolution, according to Makena Ireri, the East Africa senior associate for CLASP, an international energy-efficiency organisation focusing on appliances a.

An estimated 60% of the $20 billion of public monies invested in African energy projects between 2014 and 2016 was spent on fossil fuels, compared to just 18% for clean energy projects. Connecting Africa’s booming population to carbon-intensive grids could be a recipe for soaring emissions in a continent that has become a dumping ground for the planet’s least efficient electrical products and appliances.

Eric Gibbs, CLASP’s chief policy officer said: “Products sold in Africa often cannot be sold in their countries of origin because they don’t meet the energy performance requirements there. They are legacy inefficient products being pushed into the African market. Now is the time to deal with it.”

Take lightbulbs for example, inefficient incandescent light bulbs have been phased out in Europe and China, but companies in these economies still export incandescent bulbs to Africa because most countries on the continent don’t have energy efficiency regulations.

“It is a planetary issue,” said Ireri, at the event. “Even if the products in your home use less energy, it won’t matter from a climate perspective if on the other side of the world people are using poor quality, inefficient products.”

“It’s not just about creating and enforcing the right (EU) regulations to ban products,” she said. “It’s about what happens to them afterwards in the supply chain across their full life cycle.”

CLASP is currently conducting a study on the market dumping of obsolete and inefficient products from the EU and China into Africa. The study will help support a growing dialogue among policy-makers about how to tackle this serious issue which both results in higher costs to consumers and more carbon emissions for the planet.

Among options being talked about, Ireri said that “EU trade agreements that have MEPS (minimum energy performance standards) as an export condition could be helpful.”

“Efficient appliances help to ensure people enjoy more and better services in their homes, whether those families are living on or off the grid,” says Nyamolo Abagi, a CLASP manager in Kenya.

The social justice dimension of energy efficiency appliances – their economic and practical advantage for the poor – is now being highlighted more and more by experts in policy making fora.

According to Theo Covary, a UNDP project manager in South Africa, the coming years will be pivotal to the success or failure of climate mitigation efforts in Africa.

He said: “Energy efficiency is hugely important because when people run out of money for their pre-paid electric meters, they revert to kerosene or coal heating in their houses.  The time to build a better, more sustainable and equitable energy future for Africa is now.”

See eceee Executive Director Nils Borg's column here