The 11th Meeting of ECOWAS Energy Ministers held on 31st October 2012 on the occasion of the ECOWAS High Level Energy Forum which held from 29 – 31 October 2012. The meeting was convened by the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with The Government of the Republic of Ghana, and was chaired by the Honourable Oluniyi Robbin-Coker, Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Sierra Leone.

The main objective of the meeting was to adopt a common action plan to implement the SE4ALL Initiative in the ECOWAS region, and to consider and adopt the recommendations of technical experts from Member States on the progress of various ECOWAS Energy Programmes particularly:

• The ECOWAS Energy Efficiency Policy;

• The ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy;

• The ECOWAS Small-Scale Hydro Power Programme; and

• The ECOWAS Bio-energy Strategy.

The Meeting noted the persistent energy crisis in the region and its effects on the economic development of Member States, and expressed their commitment to the improvement of energy security and increased access to modern energy services through the promotion and use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in ECOWAS Member States. It also expressed satisfaction with current market trends which indicate a consistent price reduction for renewable energy technologies, making them more competitive and offering opportunities for the diversification of the ECOWAS region’s energy sources.

There was therefore the need to enhance the enabling environment for increased access to energy services in the region. The Energy Ministers therefore adopted the regional policies and corresponding action plans on renewable energy and energy efficiency, noting that they would assist the region to exploit its significant renewable energy and energy efficiency potentials.

The ECOWAS Regional Renewable Energy Policy aims to ensure increased use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, small-scale hydro and bioenergy for grid electricity supply and for the provision of access to energy services in rural areas. The policy scenario will complement other important conventional sources for power production (e.g. large hydro and natural gas). The policy primarily focuses on the electricity sector, but also considers some additional issues regarding the use of heat in the domestic energy sector. The specific objective of the renewable energy policy is to increase the share of renewable energy in the region’s overall electricity mix to 10% in 2020 and 19% in 2030. Including large hydro the share would reach 35% in 2020 and 48% in 2030. Around 25% of the rural ECOWAS population will be served by mini-grids and stand alone systems by 2030.

The ECOWAS Energy Efficiency Policy aims to implement measures that free 2000 MW of power generation capacity and in the long term, more than double the annual improvement in energy efficiency, so as to attain levels comparable to those of world leaders. To this end, five priority regional flagship energy efficiency initiatives will be implemented:

• lighting – to phase out inefficient incandescent bulbs by 2020;

• electricity distribution – to reduce average losses in electricity distribution from the current level of 15 – 40% to the world standard level of 7%, by 2020;

• cooking – to achieve universal access to safe, clean, affordable, efficient and sustainable cooking for the entire population of ECOWAS by 2030;

• standards and labels – to establish and adopt initial region-wide standards and labels for major energy equipment by end 2014;

• finance – to create instruments for financing sustainable energy, including carbon finance, by the end of 2013;

The meeting also highlighted the importance of hydro power in addressing the region’s energy challenges and called on Member States to ensure the effective implementation of the ECOWAS Small-Scale Hydro Power Programme. It also noted that bioenergy is the single biggest source of energy in the region and stressed the need to ensure the sustainable exploitation and utilisation of the resource. Consequently, two resolutions on hydro power and bioenergy were equally adopted.

The Energy Ministers commended the visible leadership of the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) in the promotion of sustainable energy solutions and urged ECREEE to play a leading role in the implementation of the SE4All Initiative in West Africa. They also welcomed the recent appointment of Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, the Director-General of UNIDO and Chairman of UN Energy as Special Representative for the SE4All and CEO of the Initiative by the UN Secretary General. The Energy Ministers expressed optimism regarding future collaboration between ECOWAS and the Initiative. In a similar vein, the meeting also called on the UN General Assembly to declare a Decade for SE4All.

Dr. Yumkella, speaking at the event, commended the ECOWAS Commission for demonstrating unparalleled commitment to the deployment or renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region as seen by the establishment of ECREEE, a model which is about to be emulated by the Eastern African Community and the Southern African Development Community. The Special Representative highly welcomed the decision of the ECOWAS Energy Ministers mandating ECREEE to act as the focal institution for the implementation of the SE4All Initiative in West Africa. Dr. Yumkella and other high level members of the international community applauded the leadership of ECOWAS for the adoption of the ECOWAS policies on renewable energy and energy efficiency, noting that it demonstrates a strong regional political commitment to the achievement of sustainable energy for all by 2030. They pledged their support for the implementation of the newly-adopted policies and their corresponding action plans.