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GCCI, GEF/UNIDO promote renewable energy

Sep 19, 2014, 9:21 AM | Article By: Adama K. Jallow

The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), in collaboration with the GEF/UNIDO 4 project, Tuesday conveyed a breakfast forum on renewable energy in The Gambia.

Held at the Ocean Bay Red Croc Hotel in Bakau, the round-table conference brought together participants from all walks of life including government officials and members of the private sector.

The forum, geared towards increasing and strengthening renewable energy supply in the nation, discussed relevant issues about renewable energy (RE) such as the GEF/UNIDO 4 Project, overview and future of RE in The Gambia, benefits and opportunities in RE for GSM companies, benefits and opportunities in RE for hotels, financing windows for RE in The Gambia, and options for various sectors in The Gambia.

In his opening remarks on the occasion, Energy Minister Dr Edward Sarja Sanneh said energy as the engine of growth has propelled many of the leading world economies into wealth and prosperity, while some developing nations such as The Gambia are still facing challenges of energy availability, sufficiency and liability.

Minister Sanneh said no government can single-handedly finance and manage the whole energy sector without the involvement of other relevant stakeholders, particularly the private sector.

The Gambia government through the Ministry of Energy continues to create the enabling environment for private sector involvement in the energy sector, particularly the renewable energy sub-sector through the provision of some incentives, the Minister said.

He added that his ministry is currently working with relevant stakeholders to review the list of renewable energy components which would attract zero tax on their importation.

When all these incentives are available to project developers, it would ease the financial burden of electricity and increase investments in renewable energy in The Gambia, he remarked.

The Gambia has huge potential and sufficient RE resources to enhance energy security, lower cost of energy and increase viability.

Put to proper use, Minister Sanneh noted, RE resources would also generate income and create employment for youth as well as enable the country to make substantial foreign exchange savings by using dependents on imported fuels and mitigate climate change.

The development of a Renewable Energy Act in 2013 and the ongoing work on tariffs are among the actions undertaken by government with the support of its partners to improve the investment climate of renewable energy sector in The Gambia.

The main objective of the Renewable Energy Act 2013 is to promote the use of RE resources to achieve greater energy self reliance, thus reduce exposure to fuel prices and demand burden, which is currently on NAWEC.

Other key provisions made in the Renewable Energy Act, according to the minister, include the establishment of the renewable energy fund, general incentives for renewable energy facilities, streamlining, and adequate training of installers of renewable energy equipment among others.

Since the Renewable Energy Act was passed in December 2013, he said, the ministry had continued to work with all relevant stakeholders to fulfill the condition stipulated in the act, which is out to ensure the right climate is always set to fulfill private participation in the sector.

In his remarks, GCCI Chief Executive Officer Alieu Secka said there are many reasons people must go for renewable energy.

Renewable energy, he noted, is essential for the improvement of the environment and with the abundance of sunshine RE could be well utilised in The Gambia.

Making use of renewable energy, in relation to the environment, also lends itself to corporate social responsibility, the GCCI CEO noted.

He further remarked that in the face of challenging and expanding needs of energy and particularly with the rising cost of fossil fuel, looking for other alternative energy sources for The Gambia makes economic sense for the private sector.

The bigger the investment the better the yield, he told investors, saying there is handsome return on investment in renewable energy.

The GCCI and the private sector would utilize renewable energy, which would be one of the biggest RE projects in the nation, CEO Secka said.

“The private sector must be seen as a key partner and when we do, we can look at renewable energy with the return on investments and the other benefits which will be derived from a 5-6 year period then we can be able to expand and grow our energy supply in an increasing economy,” he said.

“While we yearn for Vision 2016-2020 and all the other programs that the government and private sector advocate for we must unavoidably look at renewable energy as a solution.”

Delivering her statement, the chairperson of GEF/UNIDO Project Steering Committee and Executive Director of the National Environment Agency, Ndey Sireng Bakurin, stated that energy is a multi-dimensional issue, which influences poverty reduction and economic development at both the macro and micro levels, which also influences social development and the environment.

She added that it is encouraging that the level of international attention paid to energy issues is increasing.

“Energy transforms lives, businesses and economies,” she said. “And it transforms our planet – its climate, natural resources and ecosystems.”

She added that there can be no development without energy, hence the key is to provide sustainable energy for all.

NEA, she reiterated, “continues to work closely” with all stakeholders at all levels to address the environmental and sustainable development efforts needed.

The forum ended with an exhibition tour to project sites such as the Senegambia Hotel-Solar Thermal Plant in Senegambia, Lemon Creek Hotel-Solar PV Plant (60KW) in Bijilo and the Mbolo Association-Solar and Wind hybrid (8.3kw) in Tujereng.