East Africa’s Energy Union: A Game-Changer for Sustainable Development

How the initiative will boost development and integration in the region

by Motoni Olodun

East Africa is on the verge of establishing a regional energy union that would provide reliable and affordable energy to the business sector and the citizens of the bloc. The initiative, spearheaded by the Energy Regulators Association of East Africa (EREA), aims to harmonize the energy policies and tariffs of the six partner states of the East African Community (EAC).

The EREA Executive Secretary, Dr. Geoffrey Mabea, said that energy is a key driver of development and digitalization in the region and that the energy union would facilitate a cost-effective and market-oriented energy transition. “EREA is harmonizing methodologies for arriving at tariffs across the region. Currently, every country has its own methods of arriving at tariffs. This makes investment in the region very difficult due to independent different energy tariffs,” he said.

The energy union would also enhance the security and sustainability of energy supply in the region, as well as promote cross-border trade and integration. According to the EAC website, the region has a total installed power capacity of about 6,200 megawatts (MW), of which 65% is from renewable sources. However, the region still faces challenges such as low access to electricity, high dependence on biomass, and inadequate transmission and distribution infrastructure.

The EAC has been implementing various projects and programs to address these challenges, such as the East African Power Pool, which interconnects the national grids of the partner states, and the Regional Strategy on Scaling-up Access to Modern Energy Services, which targets universal access to electricity by 2030. The EAC also has a renewable energy policy and a climate change policy that support the development of clean and green energy sources.

The Minister of State for Energy of Uganda, Mr. Okaasai Opolot, who opened the 26th session of the EREA Executive Committee meeting in Entebbe on Tuesday, said that Uganda has taken some strides in the energy sector, such as amending the Electricity Act to facilitate direct electricity purchase and lower end-user tariffs for manufacturers. He also said that Uganda is engaging with other EAC partner states to establish a wheeling framework for effective power purchase from government generation plants.

Mr. Opolot said that the EAC partner states share a common vision of eradicating energy poverty in East Africa and that the energy union would help achieve that goal. He also said that the EREA has expanded its scope to include petroleum regulation, in order to enhance the delivery of the transformative agenda on development in the economy.

The chairperson of the Electricity Regulatory Authority of Uganda (ERA), Ms Sarah Wasagali Kanaabi, said that there are efforts to harmonise the regulatory frameworks in the region, in order to create a conducive environment for investment and trade in the energy sector. She also said that EREA is seeking to have a permanent seat at the EAC, in order to cease operating in its current observer status.

The chairperson of the board at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), Ms Jane Mulemwa, said that the meeting provides an opportunity for regulators to benchmark on aspects related to the regulation of the energy sector in East Africa. She also said that Uganda’s oil and gas resources present enormous opportunities for skills development, employment, enterprise development, and technology transfer.

The EREA was established in 2008 as a multilateral association of national energy regulators of the EAC countries. It was officially recognized as a forum of energy regulation in the EAC by the Sectoral Council on Energy Ministers in 2013. Its objectives are to harmonize energy policies, build capacity for the energy sector, and provide advice and information to facilitate trade in energy.

The EREA has developed over 40 tools and frameworks to enhance the harmonization of energy policies and tariffs in the region. It is also at an advanced stage in establishing the East African Centre for Energy Regulation.

The establishment of the energy union is expected to boost the economic and social development of the region, as well as contribute to the global efforts to combat climate change and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Source: Daily Monitor

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