Regional energy trade feels Coronavirus pinch

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Dr Geoffrey Mabea in his office in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo/Courtesy
Dr Geoffrey Mabea in his office in Arusha, Tanzania. Photo/Courtesy

The Energy Regulators Association of East Africa (EREA) has said that electricity use in the region dropped as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic even as access remained a challenge.

The association’s Executive Secretary, Dr Geoffrey Mabea said that demand for electricity reduced since industries either closed down or down-scaled their operations. Commercial services also nosedived.

“Use of electricity reduced by 5% across the region while petrol use dropped by 25% and diesel by 7%,” Dr Mabea who is based in Arusha-Tanzania said.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) also reported that Europe experienced an average of 10 % decline in energy demand per week as a result of the virus that has ravaged economies, killed thousands and continues to infect more.

Dr Mabea who is an energy economist said the EREA is working on frameworks that will facilitate smooth energy trade in the region.

“The pursuit for an integrated energy market in the interest of member states is achievable and will address among other things, the harmonization for the methodology of arriving at prices in the region,” he said.

Dr Mabea noted that the East Africa Community (EAC) regulators have developed numerous frameworks and tools that are under implementation in various regulatory institutions in the region.

He said that in the past financial year, the region developed the electricity data-sharing tool in the power sector.

“Two frameworks- petroleum retail stations regulations and LPG cylinder exchange pool frameworks were designed to increase efficiency in the petroleum energy sector,” Dr Mabea said.

The region has also carried out critical research geared towards increasing innovation in the region, according to the official.

He said that the EREA had seen some of the studies carried out such as net metering, clean energy access, pricing regulation and the strategic reserve model.

Dr Mabea who is the pioneer CEO of the institution said that the Eastern Africa Power Pool will be operational within two years.

He said that there will be adequately trained staff in areas of power markets operations that will support and implement the development of short-term markets such as Day Ahead Markets as well as system operations.

He said that the energy markets integration will address the current mismatch between power generation and demand.

He proposed the concept of Nodal pricing or zonal pricing for the region, should the short-term markets be realised.

“The EAC has enormous energy resources (power and petroleum), making the region ideal for industrial revolution,” Dr Mabea said.

He said that the critical success factors in the realization of an EAC energy Union is anchored on cooperation, capacity building, developing robust infrastructure (for both mini-grids, off-grid and super grid), clean energy, speed of implementation and political willingness to support these initiatives.

“Energy is the driver of all the sectors in the economy. Its affordability, reliability, availability, and adequacy are objectives that the region aspires to have, under EREA,” Dr Mabea said.

He said EREA will push to ensure energy trade is prioritized through development and harmonization of energy frameworks within the region and establish a continental centre of excellence for sustainable capacity building.