Officials from 18 Ministries of Energy met in Benin in October to continue development of an Efficient Lighting Strategy for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Charlie Miller from SolarAid and Andreas Adam from Osram represented GOGLA at the event.
Originally focused on the transition to efficient lighting on-grid, Charlie Miller and Andreas Adam worked closely with colleagues from the UNEP EnLighten team to raise the profile of off-grid lighting solutions in discussions and promote policies which would support off-grid lighting market growth.
The major barriers holding growth back in West Africa include high VAT & tariffs, state-funded free or heavily subsidised distribution of off-grid lighting products, a lack of demand/awareness and low distribution capacity. There were also risks that ECOWAS would seek to develop its own Minimum Energy Performance standards outside of the framework being developed by Lighting Global, including potentially market-distorting performance targets.
An important precedent was set when ECOWAS’s off-grid Minimum Performance Standards were developed in line with existing IEC and Lighting Africa standards. High VAT and tariffs were acknowledged as a barrier, with officials explaining the difficulty they face winning support from Ministries of Finance and other parts of government for lower rates. UNEP committed to continue to support in this area, commissioning new research into health & safety, the economics of fuel subsidies, and the impact of off-grid lighting on jobs whilst developing a ‘toolkit’ to make policymaking more evidence-based and assist officials in building support across government. There was widespread support for public awareness campaigns which could help create demand, and for a region-wide response to e-waste management. Ambitious plans are being developed in the areas of ‘Monitoring, Verification and Enforcement’ as well as ‘Environmental Management’, although questions remain regarding the cost, timeframe and feasibility of implementation at national level.
In conclusion, Charlie Miller said: ‘We often talk about a potential market of hundreds of millions, but today policy barriers mean millions of customers in West Africa remain out of reach. While it takes time to build consensus around why and how to catalyse the market for off-grid lighting, GOGLA’s active involvement in this important regional policymaking process could give us a great platform to build on as we seek concrete changes in policy at national level across the West Africa region.’
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