In Europe and North America, the debate on renewables is often conducted in the context of achieving the right energy mix – reducing dependence on fossil fuels and planning for energy conservation and efficiency. But what role can sustainable, renewable energy play in those areas of the world where having more than one energy source would be an unimaginable luxury, and where energy supply means cutting down a tree or foraging for firewood?
At the European Court of Auditors, we recently conducted an audit of funding for renewable energy programs inEast Africa. In the rural and peri‑urban areas of Africa, households’ priority electricity needs are generally lighting, charging mobile phones, a radio set or a television, air circulation and, when and where possible, a refrigerator, air conditioning or other appliances. At village level, supplying electricity to medical centers is usually the top priority, followed by administrative facilities, schools and, where needed, water pumping. The arrival of electricity is a game-changer: it makes possible activities such as grain milling, rice husking, sawmilling, food and drink refrigeration, tailoring or communication centers.