May 31, 2011, 1:20 PM
In that light, he added, government has made significant investments with a view to providing adequate energy services for the advancement of the economy.
PS Njie made this statement while delivering a speech at the national consultation seminar on the development of renewable energy investment strategy for The Gambia.
The seminar organised by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisations (UNIDO) and ECOWAS Center for Renewable Energy projects, was held at the Paradise Suites Hotel on Wednesday.
“The availability of adequate, reliable and affordable supply of energy is very crucial for the socioeconomic development of a country, and that is why the Government of The Gambia accorded high priority to the energy sector in its development agenda,” he said.
According to PS Njie, energy provides essential services to meet many basic human needs, particularly heat, as it motivates power E.G water, pumps, transport, light, businesses, households, industries and public services such as modern healthcare, education and communication, which are highly dependent on access to energy services.
Notwithstanding, he said, there are still major challenges in the energy sector, which include the country’s over-dependence on imported fossil fuels to produce about 99 per cent of the electricity supply in the country.
This is draining the country’s foreign exchange and constitutes significant percentage of the country import bills, he noted.
“In order to reduce this high dependence on the imported fossil fuels for the country’s electricity supply, the government has been looking inwards for the promotion and judicious utilisation of indigenous energy resources to reduce the import bill, improve the energy mix and provide sustainable energy for sustainable development.”
Many efforts have been made by the government and its partners in this direction, hence it led to the establishment of Gambia Renewable Energy Center (GREC) in 1980s, to carry out promotion and adaptive research in renewable energy technologies, and the study to assess the renewable energy resources potential of the country, conducted from 2005 to 2006.
In 2008, he added, the government took a decision to waive import duties and sales tax on selected renewable energy equipment, and enactment of renewable energy bill into law in 2013.
“This law has created many incentives and instruments, including Feed-in-Tariff for the promotion of renewable energy in the country.”
However, he continued, in order to consolidate the gains made on the ground, the government thought itprudent to develop an investment strategy for renewable energy to map out the sectors and areas with high renewable energy investment potential, estimate investment requirements and identify the potential sources of financing.
Renewable energy is a great opportunity for African countries, like The Gambia, he said, adding: “We need the will and the concerted collective efforts of all to win the fight against energy poverty.”
Also speaking at the seminar was the executive director of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ndey Bakurin, who said the Gambia government continues to create an enabling environment to address the energy needs of the people.
Therefore, she continued, it is important to explore partnership and sustainable avenues to accessing energy.
The Gambia government, in partnership with Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and ECOWAS Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) and the private sector, is implementing this important UNIDO/GEF 5 energy projects.
This includes having in place an investment strategy for the dissemination and application of various forms of renewable energy technologies in The Gambia.
She added that the main objective of this project is promoting market-based use, and integration of small-to-medium scale renewable energy systems in the productive areas.