Energy Crisis in Africa: the case of Comoros

Energy Crisis in Africa: the case of Comoros

                           Abstract

Energy has long been regarded as an important factor in a country’s social and economic growth. This is still evident today, and it is especially true for weak, non-interconnected areas, such as small island republics. Comoros’s energy status, just like several other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) around the world, is heavily reliant on fossil fuel imports. From the standpoint of sustainability, availability, and affordability, energy security is critical to the archipelago’s socio-economic prosperity. The development of renewable electricity generation appears to be a crucial prerequisite for ensuring a sustainable future as a forward-looking response to energy vulnerability. The potential for renewable energy in Comoros has yet to be investigated. The main problem is that there have never been any reliable energy statistics in the past. As a result, socioeconomic data were obtained and analysed through books, reports, publications, and the World Bank database, among other sources. Meetings and interactions with various energy players in Comoros, as well as published sources, provided most of the data used. The potential for solar or wind energy production was calculated using online geographic information systems (GIS) or freely available open-source software. Despite the enormous potential for renewable energy, hydropower only accounts for 3.8 per cent of the Comorian electrical supply. This article presents an analysis of the energy situation in Comoros, with a focus on renewable energy options to help with the green power supply. The goal of this article is to discuss the steps that are being taken in Comoros to address the present energy crisis as well as to contribute to the construction of a conducive climate for the private sector to participate in the development of renewable energy in the country. The findings of this paper reveal that only 8% of the people in Comoros have access to electricity, with the three islands servicing only 8% of the population (Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan). Despite the vast potential of many resources, this study concludes that renewable energies are infrequently utilized. Finally, this study makes recommendations for Comoros to achieve a more sustainable future.

Introduction

Despite having one of Africa’s highest electrification rates, the Union of Comoros faces a particularly difficult energy scenario. Comoros has the greatest rate of energy loss and the lowest cost recovery rate in Africa. It is estimated that 48% of the electricity generated is wasted, with just 33% of the energy sold being paid for. The enormous power shortage, which acts as a key impediment to the country’s socio-economic development, is one of the most important concerns to overcome in achieving Comoros’ growth possibilities. Due to a structural problem of high generation costs and ineffective sector management, Comoros’ power sector is experiencing an energy crisis. The country’s dependence on fossil fuels and the worn-out national power grid, which is inadequately operated and maintained, hinder socioeconomic development in an already fragile environment. The larger cities and the capital Moroni regularly experience power outages lasting several hours per day.

Comoros is an archipelago, and its geography lends itself to a decentralized power grid with different levels of government on each island. However, the large inventory of public buildings owned by the Comoros government can be used to install solar energy systems and address the energy crisis. In addition to public buildings, mosques account for a significant portion of total electricity consumption in a country where nearly 98% of the population is Muslim and attendance at a mosque in central to religious rituals, practices, and a sense of community. “Public buildings account for about 15% of daily national energy consumption,” said Mohamed Nassur, Director of Energy at the Comoros Ministry of Energy, Water and Hydrocarbons. “Reducing national energy costs by promoting renewable energy will contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The technical assistance provided to Comoros following the Climate Investment Platform’s call for proposals will help the General Directorate of Energy, Mines and Water identify its own consumption needs. For a period of six months, the project Green, and Smart Administration: promoting self-production and self-consumption in public institutions (administration and large mosques) in Comoros will identify energy demand and consumption in public and religious buildings on the three islands of Ngazidja, Anjouan and Mohéli.

The Ministry will use the results of the feasibility study to implement individual and collective self-consumption and, if possible, self-production in all public institutions of the Union of Comoros. “The performance of public administrations is at the mercy of unstable electricity supply. Promoting clean energy will contribute to the national goal of increasing renewable energy supply – and it will also help increase government performance and efficiency. The Climate Investment Platform’s Thomas Jensen Energy Transition Award is a significant step toward more comprehensive and informed climate change initiatives. It will help promote energy conservation and green practices that have the potential to be replicated in other public sectors across the country,” added Fenella Frost, UNDP Representative to Comoros. Mohamed Oussein Dahalani, Imam of the Grand Mosque of Moroni, emphasized the role of clean energy in supporting the mission of large mosques to promote sustainable development initiatives for the well-being of the community and its environment. The unreliability of the current electricity grid and the high cost of electricity make the possibility of switching or incorporating more renewable energy into the energy mix very attractive. The CIP-funded project will contribute to the National Contributions formulated by Comoros.

Methods

As already mentioned, the renewable energy potential of Comoros has yet to be investigated. The main issue is that there have never been any reliable energy statistics in the past. As a result, socioeconomic information was gathered using the World Bank database. Meetings and interactions with various energy players in Comoros, as well as published sources, provided most of the data used. The potential for solar or wind energy production was calculated using online geographic information systems (GIS) or freely available open-source software.

Prior to the current energy scenario in Comoros, which is characterized by significant spatial inequalities in terms of energy security and economic development throughout the three islands, the Union of Comoros continues to focus on the issue of sustainable electricity.

In the coming years, Comoros’ main task will be to achieve a balance between the quality of its electricity supply and the growth of a low-carbon energy sector. Despite its enormous potential, the Comoros electrical sector must develop critical solutions to address the financial, management, and governance challenges that continue to hinder renewable energy development, especially in rural areas. In comparison to islands in the Indian Ocean that are close by, such as Mauritius[1], Madagascar[2], and La Reunion[3], Comoros has a negligible share of renewable energy (see Table 1).

Table 1: Energy use by source in 2016[4]

ResourcesEnergy (toe)Share (%)
Liquified Petroleum Gas8310,56
Diesel2975920,07
Gasoline112747,60
Oil/Jet fuel1641611,07
Dry wood8981660,58
Renewable energy1550,10
Coal63384,28

Results

There is no explicit policy in place in Comoros to encourage the development of renewable energy sources. This is because of three major issues. To begin with, the country’s economic situation is dire. The country is plagued by structural flaws, and the economy remains unstable, limiting the country’s ability to invest in its development. Second, political instability is a barrier to foreign capital investment and the long-term viability of major policy directions, particularly in the energy sector. Third, developing an energy strategy necessitates precise statistical data on the territory, which is currently missing. In June 2017[5], the Comorian government conducted its first national energy conference, despite all these disadvantages. The government reaffirmed its willingness to guide the country out of its precarious energy predicament during this gathering.

The government has rallied energy stakeholders around Comoro’s Horizon 2030, a medium-term strategic objective. The Ministry of Energy is currently in charge of the electricity delivery. However, the country receives foreign cash on a regular basis to enhance and renew these facilities. The biggest issue until now has been meeting electricity needs with fossil fuel power plants. It is critical to adopt a real energy policy to lay the groundwork for long-term energy planning. The energy sector, however, is not governed by any laws or regulations. As a result, it is critical to developing an incentive as well as an appealing legal structure. Because of the importance of initial investment for investors, this framework is very crucial. A constant challenge with SIDS, as described by Surroop[6], is a lack of political will to begin significant change. Comoros is no different. The establishment of a true political agenda, together with power sector reorganization, would be the first step toward a decarbonized society in the short future. Furthermore, it appears that establishing an independent regulatory framework in which policy decisions and investments may be openly assessed to evaluate whether the established aims are being met is critical. As a result, the creation of a new framework should provide an economic incentive for the energy sector’s harmonic and long-term development. In a vulnerable area like Comoros, economic assistance mechanisms are required in addition to political aspirations to attain electrically self-sufficient islands[7]. Unfortunately, despite the 2017 Energy Conference, the first signs of such a transition have yet to emerge, and the 2017 ambitions have yet to be reflected in national legal frameworks. Therefore, Comoros, like many small islands, must forsake its monolithic energy policy. This strategy has proven structurally cumbersome for many years. To confront the problems of transformation, the country must adjust swiftly. The energy vulnerabilities of Comoros are threefold. To begin with, the high cost of carbon-based power (0.24e/kWh) is attributable to a malfunctioning distribution network. More than 40% of the losses are due to this bad state. These prices are currently the most expensive in the region. However, the region’s reliance on fossil fuels puts it sensitive to global market price swings. Finally, more than 65% of electricity generation is financed by the government. This assistance is impeding the area’s long-term growth. This is because other vital issues, such as access to clean water or mother and child health, are hampered by the energy sector’s resource constraints.

Discussion

What steps are being taken in Comoros to address the present energy crisis?[8]

To offer basic services to the country, it is critical to address the energy crisis. In this sector, reforms are in the works. The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) choice to concentrate solely on the energy sector in its 2011-2015 country plan demonstrates improvement. They are, nevertheless, insufficient. As a result, the AfDB convened a high-level conference with the Comorian government as well as important technical and financial partners[9].

The Union of Comoros’ Vice President and Minister of Finance, as well as representatives from the public and private sectors, donors such as the World Bank and the Islamic Development Bank, and the AfDB President, will discuss strategic issues and questions related to the country’s energy sector’s long-term development. A high-level meeting was conducted at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan seven years ago to consider solutions to Comoros’ energy crisis[10]. The importance of the private sector in the country’s ailing energy industry was underlined at the meeting.

First Vice President of the African Development Bank, Emmanuel Mbi, stated, “The AfDB is dedicated to assisting Comoros’ energy sector and advancing the coordination of development partners and private sector initiatives. Increased energy production and sustainable and equitable growth require the cooperation of the private sector.” Comoros suffers from a chronic energy shortage, which has hampered the country’s socio-economic progress”[11]. The country has the continent’s greatest energy loss rate and the lowest cost recovery rate. Only 33% of the energy sold is actually paid for, even though 48% of the electricity generated is lost. According to estimates from the Ministry of Energy, roughly 80% of the country is without power, and output levels are almost non-existent. Consumers have access to energy for only five hours every four days, while individuals in remote areas go a month without it. The country’s health sector is likewise being impacted by the energy crisis. The country’s largest public maternity hospital was without power, forcing it to close. “The generator that serves the facility failed, and the staff refused to work with candlelight.”

Woman gives birth on expressway after being kicked out of car - People's  Daily OnlineWomen are now giving birth in automobiles or elsewhere because they cannot afford to give birth at a private hospital, which is too expensive, according to Alfeine Siti Soifiat of the Comoros Planning Office.

The committee stated that numerous generators are out of operation due to lack of maintenance, high operating expenses, and frequent fuel shortages, among other flaws in the country’s power-producing systems. Abdou Nassur, the Minister of Energy, argued for a shift to alternative energy sources. “We can’t rely on a single energy source.” “To meet our country’s energy needs, we need more than one source,” he stated.

The African Association of Energy Producers, whose leader Hickem Jemai advocated for the use of coal because it is less expensive, also welcomed the diversity of energy sources. President Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank recently urged for the financing of coal-fired power facilities in a meeting with journalists in London. The use of geothermal energy is also being investigated. Development partners, energy business officials, and the private sector, among others, attended the AfDB and Comoros government’s high-level dialogue. The conference will act as a forum for building a framework for tackling the issues that Comoros’ energy industry is facing to strengthen its contribution to development.

Conclusion:

Due to global concerns, Indian Ocean islands are becoming increasingly engaged in energy security and ecological issues. Comoros, like Madagascar, Mauritius, and La Reunion, has recently focused its efforts on converting to renewable energy across its whole territory. This article gives policymakers a detailed picture of Comoros’ energy status. Another goal of this article is to showcase the Comoros archipelago’s potential for incorporating renewable energy into its energy industry. Fossil fuels and hydropower are currently the main energy suppliers in Comoros. In the case of Comoros, some conclusions can be drawn. The first objective is to give an overview of the data and the potential for the development of renewable technologies in the Comoros archipelago. This first step allowed us to characterize the territory and build a reliable database that we are currently using to generate scenarios for Comoros’ electricity autonomy by 2050. One of the biggest issues we identified in 2017 was the availability and reliability of online information about the archipelago. As Dornan[12] points out, external assistance and national energy policies are the key elements that can shape the energy transition for SIDS. Comoros is not just sensitive to the consequences of climate change, but also to global energy price volatility due to its weak socioeconomic status. Furthermore, particularly in non-interconnected areas like Comoros, the link between energy and regional growth is obvious. Several studies have identified remoteness and a small population as barriers to development and energy transitions. A territory like Comoros provides an excellent opportunity to develop new energy policies that promote the use of renewable energy sources. In contrast to Europe’s monolithic energy governance frameworks, the consequences of urgent decisions in Comoros will have a swift impact on the country[13]. As a result, the Union of Comoros must diversify its energy mix as quickly as feasible by using renewable energy sources. According to this article, the three islands have the potential to develop solar, biomass, wind, and geothermal energy. This, however, demands the establishment of both regulatory and investment incentives. These developments will need the creation of a proactive energy strategy that allows for the setting of short- and medium-term targets within the energy planning framework. Further research will strengthen the development of this potential by defining energy scenarios. By 2050, one will be able to propose a steady evolution of the energy mix based on these and later findings.


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[3] F. B´enard-Sora, J. P. Praene, “Territorial analysis of energy consumption of a small remote island: Proposal for classification and highlighting consumption profiles”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 59 (2016) 636–648. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2016.01.008. URL https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2016.01.008.

[4] M. de l’énergie des Comores, Rapport des assises nationales de l’energie, Tech. rep., Gouvernemnent Union des Comores (2017).

[5] U. des Comores, Rapport des assises nationales de l’énergie en Union des Comores, Tech. rep., Comoros (2017).

[6] D. Surroop, P. Raghoo, F. Wolf, K. U. Shah, P. Jeetah, “Energy access in small island developing states: Status, barriers and policy measures”, Environmental Development 27 (2018) 58–69. doi:10.1016/j.envdev.2018.07.003. URL https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2018.07.003

[7] Y. Simsek, A. Lorca, T. Urmee, P. A. Bahri, R. Escobar, “Review and assessment of energy policy developments in Chile”, Energy Policy 127 (2019) 87–101. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2018.11.058. URL https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2018.11.058

[8] https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/tackling-the-challenges-of-the-current-energy-crisis-in-the-comoros-14078.

[9] AfDB convened a high-level meeting on March 25 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Discussions to reform ailing energy industry in the Comoros, 27-Mar-2015.

[12] M. Dornan, K. U. Shah, “Energy policy, aid, and the development of renewable energy resources in Small Island Developing States”, Energy Policy 98 (2016) 759–767. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2016.05.035.

[13] A. Ioannidis, K. J. Chalvatzis, X. Li, G. Notton, P. Stephanides, “The case for islands’ energy vulnerability: Electricity supply diversity in 44 global islands”, Renewable Energy 143 (2019) 440–452.

doi:10.1016/j.renene.2019.04.155. URL https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2019.04.155