Cameroon: Tackling Energy Shortage and Poverty by regulating Renewable Energy


“Despite the developments contained in the law N ° 2011/022 of 14 December 2011 governing the electricity sector, a real legal vacuum can still be indexed regarding renewable energies, for the section devoted to it in the law is followed by neither implementing texts nor a real operational impetus from the government.”

By Simone Toussi Tiofack|

1. Background

Face to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) indexed as the main cause of climate change, and among the measures adopted to reduce their productions and slow down the process of global warming, the use of renewable energies, both for domestic needs and industry, has proven to be appropriate. The largest industrial powers in the world are gradually converting from conventional forms of energy that have proven to be extremely polluting for the environment. A look at the situation of these countries reveals the presence of strong and favourable mechanisms (starting with a political will) to promote the development of the renewable energy sector, including policy and appropriate regulatory frameworks facilitating multi-stakeholders initiatives and actions.

However, many other countries are lagging behind, despite their potential for renewable energy of any kind; Cameroon, like several African countries, falls into this category.

Studies whose results are included in the National Energy Plan (PEN, 1990) indicate that Cameroon has an average insolation of 4.9 KWh / m² / d, or 4 KWh / m² / d for the Southern part of the country and 5.8 KWh / m² / d for the Northern part. Such a potential is almost transposable to all other renewable energy sources, considering the country’s natural diversity.

But there is still an energy shortage, reflecting a lack of exploitation of these resources, maintaining extreme poverty in most parts of the country, and general socio-economic imbalance. How to engage stakeholders for the promotion of renewable energies? The need for political will seems paramount to any other form of engagement, be it endogenous or exogenous.

This observation underlies the idea of carrying out a study on the state of play of the legal and regulatory framework of renewable energies in Cameroon. Considered as the trigger for more serious and far-reaching thinking on the issue, an inventory would help to draw decision-makers’ attention to what is done or not, as well as initiatives that may be compulsory to promote renewable energy, given the detrimental nature of conventional energies. Establishing that state of play was made possible through ground and literature search, data analysis, interviews with energy experts from NGOs and the private sector, with executives from the relevant administrations.

2. Overview of the legal and institutional framework for renewable energies in Cameroon

The strategical framework of renewable energies in Cameroon relays on the National Energy Plan, the Master Plan for Rural Electrification, the National Energy Plan for Poverty Reduction, the Electricity Sector Development Plan for 2030 (PDSE 2030) and other documents intended for the implementation of the energy policy. Those major documents did not make it possible to clearly highlight a provision guiding the field of development of renewable energies.

The regulatory framework for renewable energies in Cameroon is captured essentially through the various laws relating to the electricity sector. It is mainly the law n° 20 of November 26th, 1983 concerning the regime of the electricity with its decrees, the law n° 98/022 of December 24th 1998 governing the sector of the electricity in Cameroon and its implementing decrees, and Law N°. 2011/022 of 14 December 2011 governing the electricity sector.

All these texts, in addition to their tendency to reduce energy to the exclusive notion of electricity, do not include the principle of a deep regulation of the renewable energy sector. Despite the developments contained in the law N° 2011/022 of December 14, 2011 governing the electricity sector, which devotes a section to renewable energies, a real legal vacuum can still be indexed regarding renewable energies, for the section devoted to it in the law is followed by neither implementing texts nor a real operational impetus from the government.

The institutional framework for renewable energies is still awaiting completion. The 2011 law provides for the creation of an Agency in charge of Promoting Renewable Energy. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources has a Directorate of Renewable Energy and Energy Management, created by Decree N ° 2012/501 of 07 November 2012, on the organization of the Ministry of Water and Energy. This component is responsible for a number of activities to promote the development of renewable energies, including the exploration and inventory of available resources in this field, research and technology transfer, design and implementation of development programs and pilot projects, monitoring of operations in the sector, popularization of the best techniques for the use of renewable energy resources. There, the Sub-directorate dedicated to renewable energies includes a Standardization Studies Department and a Renewable Energy Development Department. In other public administrations (the Presidency of the Republic itself) and some institutions in charge of electricity (ARSEL, AER), there are cells dedicated to the promotion of renewable energies, but more oriented towards the production of the electricity.

3. Other findings on the advancement of renewable energy in Cameroon

Cameroon shows up to be amazingly rich in renewable energy resources: the sun in almost all parts of the country, the wind on the hillsides and mountain peaks, the biomass in the wide Southern forest and livestock areas, the small ones exploitable rivers in the mountainous regions, etc. Although some of these resources are present only in a mixed way, the exploitation sometimes requiring many studies and technical predispositions, it should be noted that their valuation depends also and especially on the political to take the best advantage from it, or boost private initiatives.

Efforts are being made by some local organizations and academic institutions to adapt the technology to the Cameroonian context, sometimes using salvage material.

Many organizations such as the African Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (ACREST), the Action for a Fair, Integrated and Sustainable Development (ADEID), the German Cooperation (GIZ), Global Village Cameroon (GVC), the Cooperation of the Netherlands (SNV), develop initiatives to promote the use of energy from renewable sources. The expertise and control they show underlines that a real incentive would be enough for the renewable energy sector to take off in Cameroon.

For the specific sub-sector of biofuels, an analysis reveals that Cameroon has a strong development potential, with animal and plant organic matter. The inventory of the main impacts of the development of this sub-sector makes an almost equal part between the positive and the negative aspects, which makes controversial all the promotion hypotheses that do not obey a well-developed framework. This framework would correspond to a policy and legal framework that is still non-existent in Cameroon. Biofuels arise as a variant of renewable energy also beneficial for Cameroon, but which require, for their development, clearly defined guidelines.

Comparing the regulatory framework of renewable energies of Cameroon with those of some reference countries highlights some significant aspects that could guide at the opportune moment the governmental decisions in this sector which now focuses the attention of the United Nations and highly industrialized countries.

4. Some recommendations for policy-makers

Obeyed by the capacity of the country’s hydrological network and focused on the construction of large hydroelectric dams, public authorities give very little consideration to the effective promotion of large-scale renewable energies. This study recommends some key measures to enhance the development of renewable energies in Cameroon:

  • Define a formal renewable energy sector policy with a special emphasis on the biofuel sub-sector, which is proving to be rather difficult;
  • Adopt a law specific to the renewable energy sector;
  • Approve all the implementing legislation of the 2011 electricity sector law, mainly the renewable energy decrees;
  • Build a solid institutional mechanism to oversee the renewable energy sector, for example by implementing the 2011 law on the creation of an agency in charge of the promotion of renewable energies;
  • Set tax and customs benefits for goods and services for the exploitation of renewable energies;
  • Provide significant financial support for research initiatives, train young people and supervise local actors for the development of these forms of energy.

Download the brief here: Policy brief_Renewable energies in Cameroon_Eng

Read the policy brief in French

P.S: This is a synthesis note from the Report on the state of play of the regulatory framework for renewable energy in Cameroon, published by the NGO Global Village Cameroon.

The full report is available here

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