By Isha S. Mansaray
Though the Mano River Union (MRU) basin has an abundance of renewable energy sources, yet it suffers from significant energy deficits.
The Energy Nexus Network (TENN), founded by Hon. Dr Kandeh Yumkellah and the Mano River Secretariat (MRU) with logistical support from the Abu Dhabi based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), has convened stakeholders from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to discuss sub-regional efforts to develop the renewable energy sector and scale-up clean cooking solutions.
The dialogue, held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, builds on the First High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Renewable Energy and Clean Cooking Conference held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown in November 2019.
“Energy is inextricably linked to most of the SDGs, including those related to gender, food security, clean water, public health, education, economic growth, youth empowerment, and climate change,” said Ambassador Medina Wesseh, MRU Secretary-General. Yet, despite the critical role it plays in catalysing economic development and supporting people’s health and livelihoods, efforts to achieve universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030 are not yet within our reach.
According to the Energy Progress Report, 789 million people still lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion are still unable to cook cleanly and safely. In Africa, 565 million people still lack access to electricity and another 900 million lack clean cooking solutions. According to Yabei Zhang, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank’s ESMAP programme, 43 million people in the MRU lack access to clean cooking solutions.
Recognising the critical role that access to energy plays in socioeconomic development, IRENA Deputy Director-General Gauri Singh lauded TENN and partners for their efforts to mobilise support for the MRU sub-region to accelerate the use of decentralised renewable and clean cooking solutions.
“Prioritising the scaling-up of renewables investment which is affordable and reliable and a quickly deployable solution,” said Singh, “can certainly put the sub-region in a sustainable development path that leads to prosperity for all.”
On pursuing a feasibility study on the formulation of an integrated renewable energy action plan for a common strategy and clean cooking solutions that would benefit the four countries, Bärbel Höhn, Special Representative for Energy in Africa for the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, noted that, “Collaboration, empowerment and strong leadership are critical elements needed in scaling-up the renewable energy sector.”
Policymakers have an important role to play in scaling-up the use of renewables and clean cooking solutions. However, said Nicholas Dunlop, Secretary-General of Climate Parliament, success is only possible when policymakers educate themselves about the benefits of the use of renewables. “The use of renewables is a cheaper option than fossil fuels,” he added.
“It is much more than how we generate electricity,” said Stefan Schurig of the Global Renewables Conference on the important role parliamentarians can play. “It is about development, justice, health, climate and what better place to start than parliament in ensuring their country sees the benefits of the energy transition.”
While thanking the numerous participants who took part in the dialogue, Hon. Yumkella noted that much more needs to be done to unlock the potential the MRU has with its abundance of renewable sources.
Meanwhile, TENN and the MRU Secretariat will continue their engagements with partners to mobilise support for the sub-region.