Feed-in tariff workshop grapples with African realities

Last week, more than 120 energy regulators, utilities and policy-makers from 14 African countries took part in a Johannesburg workshop on designing and implementing stable, long-term renewable energy support schemes such as feed-in tariffs in an African setting.

Feed-in tariffs (FiTs) are already used to promote RE in more than 30 countries globally, and South Africa has also recently introduced a FiT scheme. However, structuring renewable energy support schemes is a complex undertaking, particularly in Africa.

It means first having an energy planning framework containing a renewable energy obligation for utilities. Then in technical terms, it means integrating regulations on priority grid access, making long-term purchase contracts, and setting prices to both encourage renewable energy technologies, and to gradually decline towards grid parity over time. And in low- and medium-income countries, there remains the overriding question of how to finance renewable energy subsidies generally.

Participants came to last week’s event in Johannesburg (South Africa) fully briefed on the renewable energy data, policies, regulations and financial mechanisms in their respective countries. At the workshop, facilitated group discussions then helped participants focus on practical issues such as how to the technologies relevant to a particular country or region, set prices or tariffs in a way to support a country’s goals, and the types of institutions needed to manage all types of renewable energy financial support mechanisms.

"These facilitated working groups ensure that regulators and policy-makers go home with a clear to-do list in taking feed-in tariffs forward in their own countries," said Mr Kevin Nassiep, CEO of the South African National Energy Research Institute.

Meanwhile, Mr Thembani Bukula, Head of Electricity Regulation, South African National Energy Regulator (NERSA), added that "Knowledge-sharing for regulators is a critical element for ensuring that feed-in tariffs are structured in a way that fits the African context”.

The FiT workshop was organised by the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP): a non-profit organization that funds clean energy projects in developing countries and emerging markets. Its sub-network The Sustainable Energy Regulation Network (SERN) facilitates exchange of experience and knowledge between regulators and government officials on promoting sustainable energy, coordinated by researchers at Warwick University in the UK.

"The workshop will have a very wide ripple effect in getting feed-in tariffs off the ground throughout Africa, and we’re happy to have this event as a strong lead-in to our own 7th RERA Annual Conference," said Elijah C. Sichone, Executive Secretary, Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa.

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