Electricity planning in West Africa: which way forward? An adaptive management perspective on energy policy
MetadataShow full item record
Africa’s quest for economic development will require the increased availability and use of its abundant energy resources. Nevertheless, most of its rural population remains without access to modern energy services and urban residents typically only enjoy an intermittent supply of electricity. The dominant approach to energy planning in West Africa is top-down and centralized, emphasizing electricity generation from large dams or fossil-fueled plants and subsequent grid extension to reach more customers. However, an alternative and complementary paradigm is that of decentralized or Distributed Generation (DG), which stresses small-scale, on-site generation of power and offers a bottom-up approach to energy development. The goal of this dissertation project is to assess the various options for regional electrification and integration through a holistic analysis of the set of existing technologies and policies for deploying them. The main organ of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for regional electricity planning is the West African Power Pool (WAPP) and its primary policy document, the “Master Plan”, addresses regional power supply shortage through centralized planning. Both the WAPP policy documents and the majority of the country-level planning documents are considered to be based on a traditional, empiricist, policy analysis that appears to provide value-neutral solutions and generalizations. In contrast, the analysis provided in this project situates itself within the post-positivistic, deliberative and more contextual approach to policy analysis in order to compare the centralized approach to generation with a distributed approach, which is currently marginal in the region. It uses the Adaptive Management (AM) framework for this analysis, particularly because of the way it deals with ecological resilience in the face of widespread uncertainty. The main policy issue that this project seeks to address is the need for an integrated energy-environment planning process, which is currently lacking in West Africa, so as to achieve long term sustainability. Adaptive management offers policy makers a holistic lens with which to view energy policy, but there are very few examples of institutions that have attempted to implement it in practice anywhere in the world. These instances, however, represent a valuable historical reference point for future policy research and management efforts that seek to explore this approach. In alignment with that objective, this dissertation first provides an overview of the concept of adaptive management in general, and its application to energy problems in particular. Secondly, the research project undertakes a policy analysis of the ECOWAS strategy for electrification, based on a stakeholder analysis, a review of life cycle assessments of existing energy technologies, the expected outcomes of the electricity sector, and a set of traditional criteria for evaluating public policies. In order to further examine the question of electricity access, it carries out a quantitative analysis of the electricity demand and supply in the region. It uses a modeling approach that is based on the logic of AM to determine whether or not the energy requirements for broad based electrification can be met through distributed renewable power, which is currently a negligible component of the generation resource portfolio in West Africa. The dissertation proceeds to carry out a retrospective analysis of three cases in the U.S. where elements of AM have already been applied to energy planning in order to investigate some of the critical determinants for its successful implementation to date. This assessment then informs a prospective analysis of three West African cases that have ideal characteristics for experimentation with AM to determine to what extent similar concepts have been used, or may be employed in the future. The AM framework also calls for the consideration of local values, which should be open to revision in the face of real situations. To this end, the prospective analysis includes three additional place-sensitive criteria, so as to ensure that the framework remains viable in a different socio-political context. The AM analyses are then extended to include a discussion of learning and innovation in clean energy technologies, drawing from the Chinese, Danish and South African experiences. The results suggest that a strong and consistent political will that is in alignment with an explicit social policy is needed to initiate and implement broad-based electrification plans, but that stakeholder participation is critical to their success. In addition, the adoption of multiple instruments and the selection of a diverse range of energy resources were found to be more effective than an overreliance on a single dominant scheme so as to allow room for policy learning. Furthermore, the results confirm that a holistic approach to managing ecosystems associated with electric power production is a fruitful way to integrate ecological considerations with social and economic factors throughout the development of a project. This type of systemic methodology should also include the building of technological capability and the development of innovation capacity in order to address the unique socio-economic context and the rapidly-changing climatic conditions in West Africa. Finally, the articulation of a planning philosophy that engages the values and sensibilities of the people in a particular place, and that is rooted in them, was found to be a critical factor for increasing the level of public participation in management activities in order to achieve more equitable and democratic outcomes.