21 November 2013, Banjul – The Vice President of The Gambia, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, has said that availability and access to modern energy services is not only vital to reducing poverty in West Africa but also critical in maintaining peace and security.
She made the declaration while delivering the keynote address at the opening of the two-day 4th ERERA Forum on Wednesday, 20th November 2013 in Banjul, The Gambia. The Forum is being attended by some 150 participants including regulators, operators, power experts and consumers in the electricity sector.
According to her, there can be no meaningful and sustainable development without adequate, reliable and sustainable energy, considering that the region is blessed with some of the richest energy resources including oil, gas, coal, large hydro and abundant sources of renewable energy.
The Vice President however lamented the fact that ECOWAS Member States have been “pursuing our individual national energy policies without exploring the benefits of economies of scale”.
As a founding member of ECOWAS, The Gambia, she said, has “always believed in the benefits of regional integration as the best way of efficiently and sustainably exploiting and managing our resources for the common good of all our citizens”.
She recalled joint regional projects between The Gambia and her neighbours, and said that when completed, they would improve electricity supply as well as greatly enhance the socio-economic development of the region and enhance the integration of Community citizens.
While noting a paradigm shift through the creation of such institutions as ERERA, the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE), which has led to the implementation of various developmental projects in the region, the Vice President urged the ECOWAS Commission to continue in the development and implementation of more projects for the benefit of the people. In this regard, she called for the development of new renewable energy technologies in such projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Njie-Saidy who noted that electricity regulation was relatively new in the ECOWAS region, called on ERERA to help Member States build their capacity, noting that they had different levels of competence in regulation.
In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kadré Desiré Ouédraogo, described the performance in the power sector in Member States as unsatisfactory and unable to attract appreciable level of private investment despite the implementation of power sector reforms.
He recalled the many initiatives by ECOWAS to address the energy challenge, including the adoption of the 2003 regional Energy Protocol and the attendant actions undertaken resulting in the establishment of the West African Gas Pipeline Authority, the WAPP Secretariat, ECREEE and ERERA.
The President – represented by his Special Representative to Cote d’Ivoire, Ambassador Jonathan Oluwole Coker – noted ERERA’s contribution in the implementation of the roadmap leading to the regional electricity market, the hallmark being the adoption of the Directive on the organisation of the regional electricity market by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers in June 2013.
He called on ECOWAS’ partners to continue assisting ERERA in the discharge of its mandate and support it in the implementation of its strategic objectives.