The Gambia is one of the regions in the Sahel Region that is severely affected by the climate change and climate variability which is often attributed to the use of fossil fuels and other non climate-friendly energy sources.
The country has witnessed drought in 2011 prompting the Government to declare emergency food crisis and also in 2014 similar drought affected the country living many farming communities in hunger.
However, the Government has been recently counting on green energy to combat climate change and climate variability as well as attain cheap and sustainable ways to sourcing energy.
Dr Edward Saja Sanneh, The Gambia’s energy minister, has said while conventional energy sourcing like fossil has contributed to climate change, renewable energy holds the key to future prosperity as well as offers solution to combating climate change which is currently threatening lives and livelihoods in the Sahel, one of the most drought prone areas in Africa.
Renewable energy is an energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
“It is true that energy has contributed immensely to climate change, but equally, energy has offered the most promising solution to climate change through the widespread utilization of renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he said.
“Renewable energy and energy efficiency are technologies of the future and provide the bedrock of sustainable energy supply system of any country. They are crucial for human livelihoods and maintaining an ecological balance. Besides their dominant role as vehicle for combating climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency help increase energy security and access to modern energy services.”
Minister Sanneh has made these remarks today September 9 while opening a one day workshop at the Kairaba Beach Hotel which, organizers said, aims at “greening the productive sectors in The Gambia” through the use and integration of small scale to medium scale renewable energy systems in the local economy.
The project, GEF 5, is a continuation of another Global Environmental Facility project, GEF 4, which was launched in 2012 and it is a grant allocated to the Government to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the country.
“Under GEF 4, similar project was launched in 2012 that saw the development of many demonstration projects, as well as the development and enactment of renewable energy law in The Gambia. The project we launch today seeks to consolidate the gains made during the implementation of GEF4 by undertaking more demonstration projects, developing regulations for the renewable energy sub-sector, as well as training more youth and women in renewable energy entrepreneurship,” the minister said.
“It is also hoped the GEF 5 project will help with the institutional capacity strengthening, especially with the Gambia Renewable Energy Centre (GREC), so that as these projects face out, adequate capacity is left on the ground to sustain renewable energy and energy efficiency service delivery.”
Alois Mhlanga, the industrial development officer for United Nations Industrial Development Organization, explained that the project hopes to reduce poverty through the promotion of youths and women in renewable energy business.
Ndey Sireng Bakurin, the executive director of the national environment agency and the focal person for the GEF project, said the involvement of the youths and women in the project will cement its long-term sustainability.
“… with the entrepreneurship skill training for the youth and women being part of the project activities, it will ensure that the manpower to sustain this development in the long-term is made available and will promote the involvement of women and youth at the local level in such an important sector. This is also in line with GEF’s policy on gender mainstreaming,” she said.
Mrs Bakurin also said the NEA will “continue to closely work with all stakeholders” to ensure that the country’s environmental and sustainable development efforts are met.
The Gambia rely heavily on fossil fuel for its energy needs and sustainable and efficient energy supply has always been a problem affecting all the sectors within the domestic economy.
In November last year, the minister of Energy has revealed at the start of a two-day validation of The Gambia’s Sustainable Energy for All Action Agenda and Investment Prospectus documents at the Sheraton Hotel that fuel imports cause major problems for The Gambia because they use up the meagre foreign exchange that the country generates.
“Fuel imports cause major problems for the Gambian nation as they use up the little foreign exchange that the country generates. In 2009, the country spent in the order of US$47 million on petroleum imports, which amounted to about 15.5 percent share of total imports. Furthermore, the energy intensity of The Gambia is about 0.51 which is close to the Ecowas average but significantly higher than that obtained in developed and emerging economies,” the minister said.
“The four important features that characterise the energy sector in The Gambia are: high dependence on imported fossil fuel, the dominance of traditional biomass sources in the country’s energy mix, low access to modern energy services, limited investment in new assets and inadequate maintenance of old and ageing electricity power facilities and very limited investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency potentials.”
However, the minister said The Gambia has the potential to accelerate the use of its renewable resources to power its growing economy.
“Already, there is high suppressed demand for energy, especially electricity, and as the country’s demand for electricity increases, it urgently needs to look into options that are affordable, reliable and have predictable cost attributes,” he said.