Getting Renewable Energy Project Right: Involving Communities

Eugene N Nforngwa

Africa is a continent with immense potential for renewable energy development and deployment. With abundant solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal resources, Africa can meet its growing energy demand and achieve universal access to clean and affordable electricity for its people. However, to realize this vision, it is essential to involve communities in renewable energy projects and ensure that they benefit from the social, economic, and environmental impacts of green energy.

Community involvement can take various forms, such as participatory planning, ownership, management, operation, maintenance, and revenue sharing of renewable energy projects. By engaging communities in these aspects, renewable energy projects can foster local empowerment, capacity building, job creation, income generation and poverty reduction. Moreover, community involvement can enhance the sustainability and resilience of renewable energy projects by ensuring local acceptance, support, and ownership.

There are many examples of successful community involvement in renewable energy projects in Africa. For instance, in Ghana, the World Bank-supported Ghana Energy and Development Access Project (GEDAP) has installed five pilot mini-grids that convert solar energy to electricity for isolated communities in islands in the Volta Lake and the Volta River. These mini grids provide 24/7 electricity to about 10,000 beneficiaries for the first time, allowing these fishing communities to use electricity to improve their livelihoods. The project also included subsidies to help poor households afford mini-grids and supported access to financing with local financiers [1].

In Ivory Coast, the city of Cocody has launched a Green City Plan that aims to cut carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 by promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. The plan includes installing 5,000 solar lamp posts and supplying 200,000 solar PV power kits to households. Some 300,000 efficient cooking stoves, which run on ethanol procured from local sugar-cane manufacturers, are also being distributed to homes [2].

In Kenya, the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is the largest wind farm in Africa, with a capacity of 310 MW. The project is expected to provide clean and low-cost electricity to about two million households and reduce carbon emissions by 740,000 tonnes per year. The project has also involved the local community through land lease agreements, community development funds, employment opportunities, infrastructure development and environmental conservation [3].

These examples show that involving communities in renewable energy projects in Africa can create multiple benefits for both the people and the planet. By empowering communities to participate in and benefit from renewable energy development, Africa can build a different energy pathway that is inclusive, sustainable and climate friendly.





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