Energy security is crucial for driving economic growth and sustaining it in the long term. The demand escalates as countries grow and population and the demand for industrialization grows.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 600 million people, or 43% of the total population, lack access to electricity, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Though countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda are on track for full access by 2030, the demand continues to grow not just because of population growth, but as the years go by, there is an increasing need to industrialize to meet the contemporary needs of the region.

Many countries, including Ghana, face a growing gap between energy demands and the capacity to support these demands. These countries are at a crossroads of this energy revolution, facing the challenge of meeting their energy needs while also addressing global environmental concerns. These concerns were made even louder at the just-ended Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, culminating in a landmark deal to phase out fossil fuels and triple global renewable energy capacity by 2030.

The importance of this is bipartite for African countries: addressing the huge energy poverty in the continent by leveraging on renewables; and conforming to environmental standards and climate action by toeing the path of clean and renewable energy. This bipartite importance is extremely important as it offers a unique foundation for the industrialization of African countries.

Like most other African countries, Ghana’s energy mix is unsustainable, with hydro-power constituting 35%, and thermal sources (heavy fuel oil, light crude oil, diesel fuel oil, and natural gas) comprising 63%, while renewable energy makes up less than 1% of total energy generated. Both hydropower and thermal sources are vulnerable to external shocks and climate change. This heavy reliance on non-renewable sources is not only environmentally unfriendly, but also leaves the nation vulnerable to uncertainties. Also, a large number of the population especially in rural communities still lack access to sustainable and affordable energy. This present arrangement is detrimental to the long-term economic outlook of the nation as it risks being left behind as the rest of the world transitions to clean and renewable energy.

Addressing these challenges transcends the realm of policymaking. It will involve a conscious strategic move towards a sustainable energy mix, by increasing investments in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass including offshore wind turbine generation for coastal countries.

If we accept that the future of energy in Africa rests in renewable and clean energy, we will be left with two questions: how do we finance this? Secondly, how would African countries including Ghana ensure that the renewable energy sector is attractive to investors?

The answer to these two critical questions lies on the doorstep of Parliamentarians. Parliamentarians are uniquely placed under their constitutional responsibility and public stewardship to appropriate funds, make laws and policies, and interrogate their implementation by the Executive.

This is why as African countries rally to find their foothold in the quest to triple renewable energy production and distribution within the continent, Parliamentarians must step up by first ensuring that funding to support this sector is appropriated by their governments annually to support investments, provide subsidies where necessary, and out rightly fund renewable energy ventures through Public- Private-Partnerships. It also behooves Parliamentarians to enact laws and approve policies that make investments in this sector seamless while interrogating implementation.

While it is generally expected that developed countries should do their part by providing financial support for developing countries to fight climate change, African countries cannot afford to continue to wait on the delayed support of developed countries. At best, the provision of initial funding support to African countries can be a good-faith gesture that can be leveraged to attract further support. When the sector becomes highly functional and attractive, it will seamlessly attract investments.

Parliaments, as the true representatives of the people, have in recent times proven how instrumental they can be in moving beyond paper policies and rhetoric to taking affirmative action towards attaining substantial results. Visibly is the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) climate campaign (#Parliaments4thePlanet), GLOBE International’s projects, Parliamentarians for a Fossil Fuel Free Future, and many other associations of parliamentarians and parliaments who are championing climate action.

In Africa, parliaments including Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria have passed climate change acts, while the bill is at the committee stage in the parliament of Ghana, it is expected to consolidate efforts and synergies in fighting climate change including boosting renewable energy generation upon its passage.
This is what has to be done now to steer African countries towards a resilient future by proactively advocating for governments to prioritize and increase investments in renewable energy sources.

This advocacy should also include pushing for favorable policies and legislation that encourage and facilitate the growth of the renewable energy sector aside from the passage of the climate change bill, by ensuring the prioritization of renewable energy projects in the national budgets and allocating adequate funds to initiatives that will support research, development, and implementation of sustainable energy projects.

For African countries, especially Ghana to boost its renewable energy generation through investments, the role of Members of Parliament remains a very critical part of the processes, in terms of law-making to provide legal frameworks, budget allocation, and oversight. With this commitment, Parliamentarians would be charting the path to fossil-free economies and an industrialized renewable energy sector coupled with lessened climate change impacts.

This article is a collaborative work between Matthew Azure Awini, Executive Assistant, Parliamentary Network Africa, and Hon. Yves Hanson-Nortey, MP for Tema Central Constituency and Vice Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation

Matthew Azure Awini
Executive Assistant, Parliamentary Network Africa
National Campaign Fellow, Elected Officials to Protect America – EOPA
COP28 National Youth Delegate
Hon. Yves Hanson-Nortey
MP Tema Central Constituency
Vice Chairman Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation
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