Tanzanian CSOs sensitised on opportunities in achieving increased renewable energy availability and use
Initiatives to shift investments from fossil fuels to decentralised renewable energy systems is an integral part of climate change mitigation and a socio-economic enabler. In order to take forward this agenda in a successful way, CSOs need involvement and participation of communities and national governments.
It is on these premises that Tanzania benefits from the project Influence the African Development Bank (AfDB) to shift investments from fossil fuels to sustainable energies and increase its outlay in energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa. This project contributes in the National Development Vision 2025, National Five-Year Development Plans and National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA). Altogether, these plans acknowledge this reality that without energy most development objectives cannot be met.
At international level, this project is contributing to the Agenda 2030, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7, in which a universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy is underlined. It is important to also note that the project contributes to the implementation of the Paris Agreement in the quest to increase commitments for its implementation at country and grassroots levels. This is something that can be fully attained through efforts to reduce investment on fossil fuel sources and sustainably continue to attract investment to decentralised renewable energy systems by different financial and development institutions, including from the AfDB.
Renewable Energy (RE) potential sources in Tanzania include solar energy, wind, geothermal, water (mini-hydro), biomass (biogas) and solid wastes. But there are challenges that seem to hinder tapping of these sources. They include limited technology, lack of equipment to support tapping initiatives, inadequate financial resources, inappropriate policies and conflict of interest among stakeholders (Government, private sector and communities).
Aspects of affordability and accessibility of RE services are among the giant challenges in the endeavor to achieving Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) in Tanzania.
Engineer Baraka Machumu from Green Conservers, in his presentation during the first CSOs sensitisation session held on October 23, 2019, stated: “This situation contributes to difficulties in taking advantage of arising opportunities in the RE sector”.
Muchumu cites employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, innovation and technology growth and adoption, research, knowledge generation and expertise building as among the areas where the aforementioned challenges hold back efforts by community and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) due to limited access to energy in the absence of DRE systems in Tanzania.
The engineer further states: “Prosperity of available and existing intervention on RE sector, such as solid waste management for energy production in urban areas, may be at threat if the challenges will remain unattended”.
For a long-term solution to the aforementioned challenges and existing situation, Calorine Manyama, from the Association of Environmental Journalists In Tanzania (JET), suggests: “There is need to identify responsible leaders dealing with RE at all levels, conduct trainings for awareness raising to target population in off-grid areas, creat Community Based Facilitators (CBFs) as educators to be champions and agents of change towards DRE systems in the local off-grid areas.”
Ms Manyama further asserts that more research should be conducted to explore and assess current situation of the RE and sustainability in off-grid communities, in respect of the challenges and gaps mentioned.
Jeremiah Wandili, a participant from NGOs network in Kinondoni Municipality-Dar-es-salaam, told participants of the session that the challenges had been generally presented in the same way without specifications for so many years. “This means there is no recent information showing how far the challenges have been addressed by relevant government authorities, or any contribution from the private sector, NGOs or development partners”.
Wandili added: “It is, therefore, high time to zero in on key areas and come up with concrete information about all the challenges in specified sources of renewable energy with focus on certain community or context”.
This, he said, was because Tanzania is big and it is not clear if all the challenges mentioned affect all the areas in the same way, especially in the context of climate change.
Sharing his experience from the private sector, Festo Mbando from SEPON Company Limited, a home and institutions solar systems operator and service provider, had this to say to participants: “Talking about technology, some advance steps has been made. For instance, at SEPON, we are using MPPT (maximum power point tracker), which supports operation of the solar system in different weather challenges.”
From this technology SEPON sets solar home systems based on the regional weather characteristics as opposed to traditional practices, where the setting focused on the country weather characteristics. “By MPPT, the technology takes into account all the climate change uncertainties and context specific challenges in different localities,” Mr Mbando added.
A participant from Singida, only identified as Mr Fidelis, insisted that in spite of voicing out about renewable energy to off-grid communities, the value and increased acceptability of the DRE should be backed up with awareness raising on productive use of renewable energy.
He added that if this was emphasized, it would trigger the community’s call and positive engagement in the transition to DRE. He went further to say: “It is important that CSOs now advocate that at least one day in a year is set aside to commemorate Renewable Energy across the country, where among other things, exhibitions of services, technology, local innovation as contributed by renewable and productive use may be used to build case and attract acceptability of the technology among the general public, and attract investments from the private sector and the government authorities.
An access to grid electricity was the other topic that sparked an active discussion. A Mr Joram told participants: “We as CSOs should not be overwhelmed by the government definition of the access to grid electrification”.
He added: “We need to develop our definition of access, specifically for DRE that will be comprehensible to the target local communities and reflecting affordability of the technology in different localities’’.
Joram concluded his contribution, saying that re-defining the access to DRE should also open a room for CSOs to develop or establish a collaborative working modality that would amplify a uniform and informed voice from the CSOs and private sector, priorities and development partners.
Rehema Mmanga from one of the Gender-based organisations told participants: “In order to ensure justice is practiced in the transition to DRE, aspects of gender will be possible only if there are guidelines, common voice and evidences that build realities taking place in the off-grid communities”.
She averred that gender aspects were not clearly captured in available guidelines in the energy sector. Even the available gender plans and strategies, she said, are not reflected in the sector. “Therefore, having DRE as a solution, relevant guidelines are imperative and issues of gender and energy in the context of climate change should be an integral part in planning, designing and decision making throughout the process”, Ms Mmanga concluded.
The CSOs Sensitisation session held in Dar-es-salaam, and from which these views were aired, was part of the ACSEA project activities as implemented by the Tanzania platform. In this session, a CSOs Learning on Renewable Energy was also established.