December 15, 2013

Gambia: Bill to Promote Renewable Energy Approved

A Bill that seeks to establish the legal, economic and institutional basis to promote the use of renewable energy resources was on Thursday unanimously approved by lawmakers during the fourth meeting of the 2013 Legislative year. Tabling the Bill before deputies, the Energy minister, Teneng -Ba Jaiteh, reminded them that access to adequate, reliable and affordable energy is fundamental and necessary for the attainment of national developmental objectives as enshrined in the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE) and the Vision 2020. The minister opined that there cannot be any meaningful and sustainable development without sustainable energy supply. She said energy supply is not an end in itself but a means as supporting social services such as education and health.

"The Gambia currently depends heavily on the use of wood and charcoal and, fossil fuel to meet its energy requirements. Electricity generation in The Gambia is mainly dependent on fossil fuel (heavy fuel oil and diesel), which is the most expensive mode of electricity generation, especially for an oil importing country like The Gambia," she stated.

She observed that the frequent fluctuation of international oil prices over the years has seriously affected the operations of NAWEC. This, she lamented, forced NAWEC to purchase fuel at increasingly high prices taking up to 50% -60% of its revenue. This situation, she said, is even "more alarming" for its provincial operations where the mode of generation is diesel- based generating sets. "Even though electricity tariffs are high, they are not reflective of the real operational costs, thus making the situation unsustainable," she told the deputies.

The Gambia, according to Minister Teneng- Ba Jaiteh, is blessed with a lot of renewable energy resources such as the sun, wind and bio-energy, which if properly harnessed and effectively utilised would help increase the access rate to modern energy. This, she posited, would also provide alternative source of energy, "which is a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly source of fossil fuel". She observed that unfortunately, the renewable resources are under-utilised mainly due to lack of legal and regulatory frameworks, limited human resource capacity and limited access to finances. "Lack of legal and regulatory framework has resulted to sales of sub-standard renewable energy products such as solar PV modules, solar batteries, poor installation of renewable energy systems, and, low investments in the renewable energy sub-sector," she further indicated.

Thus, she reaffirmed that that the Renewable Energy Bill seeks to promote the development and sustainable use of renewable energy resources to achieve greater energy self-sufficiency and thus reduce the heavy dependency on fossil fuel and the unsustainable exploitation of forest resources to support the socio-economic development activities of The Gambia.

"The Bill would also regulate the quality of imported RE (Renewable Energy) product and the installation of RE systems; establish a Renewable Energy Fund to support research and utilisation of Renewable Energy; provide incentives for both grid and off-grid renewable electricity systems making them more attractive to both domestic and commercial entities; contribute to the achievement of the regional decisions adopted in Accra regarding the ECOWAS Regional Renewable Energy Policy; develop a well structured and regulated RE market that would help promote private sector participation in energy generation using renewable," she indicated.

Seconding the Bill, the National Assembly member for Tumana Constituency, Hon. Netty Baldeh, described it as "non-controversial", affirming that it seeks to promote environmental protection and increase the use of renewable energy in the country.

Hon. Sainey Mbye of Upper Saloum said the Bill was very timely, noting that it will benefit the people particularly the rural dwellers. "It is innovative, supportive and commendable," said Majory leader and NAM for Serrekunda East, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who also commented on the marked improvement by the government in providing electricity to Gambians compared to the First Republic.

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