Feed-in tariff workshop grapples with African realities

18-11-2010, Johannesburg, South Africa

More than 120 energy regulators, utilities and policy-makers from 14 African countries have taken part in a Johannesburg workshop on designing and implementing stable, long-term renewable energy (RE) support schemes such feed-in tariffs in an African setting.  Feed-in tariffs (FITs) are already used to promote RE in more than 30 countries around the world, and South Africa has also recently introduced a FIT scheme.

Feed-in tariffs oblige utilities to buy electricity generated from renewable energy (RE) from any customer, at a price designed to encourage the widespread installation of RE generation capacity, such as solar PV panels, wind turbines, biomass, hydro power and many other renewable technologies.

Structuring RE support schemes is a complex undertaking, particularly in Africa.  It means first having an energy planning framework containing a RE obligation for utilities. Then in technical terms, it means integrating regulations on priority grid access, making long-term purchase contracts, and setting prices to both encourage RE technologies, and to gradually decline towards grid parity over time. And in low- and medium-income countries, there remains the overriding question of how to finance RE subsidies generally.

Participants came to the event fully briefed on the RE data, policies, regulations and financial mechanisms in their respective countries. At the workshop, facilitated group discussions then helped participants focus on the practical how-to list:

  • the selection of the technologies relevant to a particular country or region
  • price or tariff setting in a way to support a country’s goals
  • the types of institutions needed to manage all types of RE  financial support mechanisms

"These facilitated working groups ensure that regulators and policy-makers go home with a clear to-do list in taking feed-in tariffs forward in their own countries," said Mr Kevin Nassiep, CEO of the South African National Energy Research Institute.  "Knowledge-sharing for regulators is a critical element for ensuring that feed-in tariffs are structured in a way that fits the African context,” said Mr Thembani Bukula, Head of Electricity Regulation, South African National Energy Regulator (NERSA), “and we're pleased to see REEEP and SERN taking the initiative in creating this event."

"The workshop will have a very wide ripple effect in getting feed-in tariffs off the ground throughout Africa, and we’re happy to have this event as a strong lead-in to our own 7th RERA Annual Conference," said Elijah C. Sichone, Executive Secretary, Regional Electricity Regulators Association of Southern Africa.