This week, Damien from the E4D team has been representing Strathclyde’s Renewable Energy partnerships at the Malawi Scotland Conference in Lilongwe. After presenting 3 key contributor papers as ‘strawmen’ for group discussions, lots of good debate led to the following initial recommendations. These will be taken forward and developed by the SMP/MaSP working group.
- Continue to focus on off-grid energy solutions for rural communities
- Commit to working within the district level planning process
- Improve how renewable energy deployments are tracked and mapped
- Share knowledge and learning – support and develop existing channels for knowledge exchange and ensure learning from failure is as valued as learning from success
- Capacity building as a continual process with a focus on asset management
Renewable Energy Paper 3. A shared vision: Where we will travel together.
In order to achieve the Renewable Energy (RE) relevant SDG7 targets, Scotland needs to continue the decarbonization of its energy system, particularly in the heat and transport sectors. It must do so in a manner that eradicates fuel poverty to ensure the affordable aspect of Target 7.1 is achieved, particularly for remote and rural areas. Scotland faces significant challenges associated with re-engineering a legacy, centralized energy system to integrate RE in a democratic, fair and equitable manner. As transport and heat are decarbonized, the grid will come under increasing strain and managing electricity generation and consumption at a local level is likely to be required. Accordingly, recent strategy places a strong focus on innovation in smart local energy systems as a means to address these challenges.
With current infrastructure only reaching a small proportion of the country, Malawi has the opportunity for an energy access ‘technology leap’, innovating to increase energy access through decentralized RE solutions. Indeed, smart local energy systems could be deployed with much greater speed and less complexity where existing grid infrastructure is absent. With GoM strategy targeting extensive deployment of mini-grids and other decentralized RE, there exists an excellent opportunity for partnerships between Scotland in Malawi to develop local energy infrastructure in parallel, with shared learning and cross fertilization of innovative ideas. This requires effective linking of civil society organizations at the forefront of local energy system innovation in Scotland with counterparts in Malawi and effective knowledge sharing between these stakeholders. This could be achieved through dedicated knowledge hubs in each country. Existing networks and forums in both countries could be utilized for this purpose, perhaps through the formation of RE working groups.
The question of who should be deploying local energy systems must be addressed. In Scotland, local authorities, social enterprises and other non-profit entities are responding to dissatisfaction with existing energy providers and are disrupting the incumbent market model, seeking to take responsibility for energy generation and supply for the benefit of their local stakeholders. In Malawi, many of the partnership initiatives focusing on education, agriculture, health and sustainable development have significant energy requirements but are unable to access the national grid. They often have to meet these requirements themselves at significant cost and with the creation of a long-term asset management challenge distracting from their core mission. This points to a great need for agencies that can supply local energy services or support the long-term management of RE systems in off-grid areas. In decentralizing aspects of energy strategy delivery, the GoM has committed to rolling out District Energy Officers (DEOs) to every district by 2022. DEOs will enable increased local government support for sustainable management of community based RE systems. RE partnership projects should actively align with the work of, and seek collaboration with, DEOs.
In a future where decentralized energy plays a major role in addressing the energy access challenge in Malawi, tracking the extent of deployment and the ongoing impact will be essential to measure progress towards SDG7. Building processes and systems that allow RE installations to be mapped and monitored, and that are accessible to all stakeholders, will be essential. Existing efforts in this area should be a focus for development.