Eposi Ethel Ekeke: The Importance Of A Flexible Energy Policy In Cameroon

Without energy in the world today, the society as we know will crumble. The cutoff of power supply to a city for 24 hours shows how totally dependent we are on that particularly useful form of energy. Life and computers ceases to function, hospitals sinks, maintenance level and the lights go out.

Energy exists in many different forms, all of which measure the ability of an object or system to do some work. Examples of these are light energy, heat energy, mechanical energy, electrical energy, sound energy, gravitational energy, electrical energy, chemical energy, nuclear or atomic energy and so on. This article will focus on renewable energy, the forms that exist in Cameroon, how much has been exploited and proposed solutions for an energy policy.

Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun. Sunlight, or solar energy, can be used directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for generating electricity, and for hot water heating, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses.

Not all renewable energy resources come from the sun. Geothermal energy taps the Earth’s internal heat and the energy of the ocean’s tides come from the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun upon the Earth.

Cameroon, Africa in miniature is a country with a lot of potential: rich in natural resources and fertile soils and a vibrant age group, being the most populated country in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) region, with fast growing population of about 23,924,407 inhabitants in 2016 . Unlike other African countries, Cameroon benefits from a relatively high social and political stability seen in the fact that she has not suffered from any major political conflict since independence except from the recent Boko Haram.

Concerning energy resources, Cameroon is endowed with abundance of renewable energy sources most of which is underutilized or unexploited. In Cameroon today, a great majority of the population still relies on conventional solid fuels such as charcoal for domestic activities. However, other sources of energy exist such as hydropower, coal, petroleum, biofuels and waste (most of which is not recycled). Those other energy sources are not exploited and most of Cameroon’s electricity is obtained gotten from three major hydroelectric power stations which are Edea, Lagdo and Song Loulou with ongoing hydroelectric projects like the Memve’ele, the Lom Pangar and Mekin hydroelectric power stations.

Second only to the Democratic Republic of Congo in terms of the possession of hydro stations, electricity is still unevenly distributed in Cameroon with electricity been concentrated in the urban areas while some rural areas are not served. The access rate to electricity per households is around 40% for the whole country and less than 15% in rural areas.

Energy consumption in Cameroon is mostly done by households who use such energy for cooking, heating and other domestic activities. Also, energy is used by the commercial and public services including healthcare (hospitals and ministries), education, business and administration. Furthermore, industries and transport (cars, trains, and airplanes) consume a large proportion of energy in Cameroon. Despite the fact that Cameroon has other energy potentials like biomass and natural gas, little resources have been allocated to develop them, explaining the almost complete dependence on hydroelectricity (74 % of Eneo Cameroon generation is from hydro). Furthermore, since the agricultural sector still uses rudimentary tools, most of the energy consumed is basically through fuelling of tractors, manufacturing fertilizers and powering or heating processing crop.

In Cameroon, combustible (capable of burning) renewable remain the major source of energy.

Among the combustibles, wood remains the major energy source across the country. The second largest energy resources consumed in Cameroon are oil products such as kerosene which is mostly used in rural areas where there is no electricity and for cooking.

In its vision 2035 , the Cameroonian government has developed an objective to invest in the energy sector with its major target being to increase energy production in order to meet up with the increased demand caused by population growth and the current economic boom especially in the industrial sector. This is also aimed at attracting both foreign and national investors. Thus, the need for renewable energy.

In terms of Cameroon energy potentials, hydropower remains the major source of energy in Cameroon although its resources have not been completely exploited. Also, there is good solar potential which is not well developed due to limited commitment and dedication of government in taking important steps to boost the sector, save a few solar panels which have been installed in Yaounde used mostly for lighting, nothing else has been done. Furthermore, wind energy is almost completely neglected, there are only about two rapid wind turbines installed in Douala meanwhile the regions which have warm springs like Ngaoundere, the mount Cameroon area and the Muanenguba zone which can generate great amounts of wind energy have not been developed. Being a dominantly agricultural economy, Cameroon has a large and unutilized potential of biomass primarily from agriculture and forest. Also, palm oil produced by companies like PAMOL, CDC, SOCAPALM and SAFACAM have been used to generate biodiesel which is mainly used for agricultural purposes within the companies.

Furthermore, some rural areas face deforestation due to the fact that wood cut for domestic purposes like cooking and heating is not been replaced and that has led to many challenges of energy affordability and environmental impact. Finally, Cameroon has potentials for geothermal energy which has not been tapped. There are hot water regions like the Ngaoundere region and the mount Cameroon region amongst others, but little or no feasibility studies have been carried out to identify their full potential.

In Cameroon, several attempts have been made at coming up with an energy policy as outlined below,

– A series of specific laws and decrees were enacted between 1998 and 2000 to set a new electricity regulatory framework, where competition principles and private involvement could be developed under the supervision of the Electricity Sector Regulatory Agency (ARSEL). They were as follows; Law n°98/022 of 24 December 1998 governing the electricity sector Decree n°99/125 of 15 June 1999 to set up the organization and functioning of the Electricity Sector Regulatory Agency, Decree n°99/193 of 8 September 1999 to set up the organization and functioning of the Rural Electrification Agency and Decree n°2000/464/PM of 30 June 2000 governing the activities of the electricity sector.

– Also, there is the Energy Sector Development Plan (PDSE 2030) which seeks to get the country out of under-development, through the implementation of the long-term Least Cost Development Plan and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

– The new electricity law N° 2011/022 passed on the 14th of December 2011 also introduced additional stakeholders which stipulate the liberalisation of energy production. This law also introduced additional stakeholders that are yet to be operational: the EDF-Electricity Sector Development Fund, TSO- Transmission Service Operator, owned by the State.

– Furthermore, the Vision 2035 has significant plan concerning the development of renewable energy. The policy goals of the government are to ensure energy independence through increased production and delivery of electricity, of oil and gas (petroleum resources) and to ensure their contribution to economic development. In this vision the government aims at increasing its capacity to 4000 MW by 2020.

– Finally, there is also a plan known as the rural electrification plan which aims at developing access to electricity in rural areas. Targets electrification in 660 localities through the extension of the interconnected grids, the rehabilitation and construction of isolated diesel power plants and mini-hydro plants as well as the development of a regional grid.

Thus, in order for Cameroon to benefit from its great potential, an energy policy should be developed which is flexible enough to include the following:

First of all, the energy policy should promote independent electricity production. Currently, the production and distribution of electric energy in Cameroon is in the hands of one company which is Eneo. This company exercises monopoly over the market and so faces no competition from any other producer or distributor. For this reason, they are not motivated to deliver the best services and their prices are quite high. This explains the constant electricity issues which the country faces like frequent electricity outages and electricity bills which do not match consumption. Thus, it is recommended that the production and distribution of electricity should be liberalized and independent producers should be encouraged to enter the market as stipulated by Law No 2011/022 of 14th December 2011. This will lead to increased production and competition which will result in better services and lower prices.

Secondly, the energy policy should promote the development of renewable energies like solar thermal and photovoltaic, wind power, exploitable hydropower streams with power exceeding 5MW, biomass energy, geothermal energy and energies from marine origin. The state should therefore ensure the promotion and development of renewable energy as well as provide the conditions, procedures and mechanisms for research and development, local production of materials and project financing. This will go a long way to fill the void which exists in terms of demand of supply of energy in Cameroon.

Also, the financial market should be taken into consideration. The Cameroonian government should develop the Douala Stock Exchange, make sure that all energy producing companies are listed in this financial market and encourage private investors to invest in the energy sector through this stock exchange. This will ensure that energy producing companies have enough capital to invest in their activities which will further lead to an improvement in the services offered.

Furthermore, Transparency International‘s ‘Corruption Perception Index’ has ranked Cameroon alongside Nigeria, the 18th most corrupt country in Africa for 2015. Corruption is endemic in Cameroon and significantly increases the costs and risks of doing business. The legal and regulatory systems are non-transparent and difficult for foreign companies to navigate. Corruption risks are further exacerbated by a non-transparent revenue collecting system and opaque licensing processes for extractive industries. Companies report corruption is among the most problematic factor for doing business in Cameroon. Thus, the Cameroon government has to intensify its efforts to combat bribery and corruption through the Operation Sparrow Hawk and other corruption fighting bodies in order to make the business environment more conducive for both local and foreign investors.

By and large, it can be concluded that the Cameroon government should ensure energy independence; Diversification in supply, Promote and increase access rates in the use of cleaner forms of energy, Rational utilisation (energy efficiency & conservation); Attract investments via the liberalisation of economic activities, competitive rules and the involvement of private capital.

Eposi Ethel Ekeke is a diplomat at the Ministry of External Relations with a Masters in International Relations (option, Diplomacy), obtained from the International Relations Institute Cameroon (IRIC). She is finance, trade and international relations analyst with CACLiTA. She also holds a Post graduate diploma (Maitrise) in Management (University of Yaounde II, Soa) and a Bachelor of Science in Banking and Finance (University of Buea).