This article was first published in the renewablesinafrica.com blog.
The last article on renewable energy in Sudan discussed the country’s electricity market, the energy access situation, and the potential for renewable energy. To further build on this, let’s have a look at the current status of renewable energy in Sudan by examining Sudan’s RISE index score. The Regulatory Index for Sustainable Energy (RISE) is an index developed by the World Bank for assessing countries’ progress towards SDG7 by examining the policies and regulations relating to energy access, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Sudan’s latest RISE score (2017) is 32/100, which is amongst the worst 25 countries globally and is also below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (35/100).
Even though the technical potential for renewable energy is high and there’s significant demand for electricity in urban and rural areas, yet Sudan is far from being an emerging renewable energy market in the region. Here’s an overview of the current status of renewables in Sudan:
- Cumulative installed solar PV electric capacity is only 17 MW which is less than 1% of installed hydropower capacity.
- Wind and geothermal energy have zero share in the total electricity capacity.
- There’s only operational “utility-scale” solar energy project in Sudan; a 5 MW solar power plant in Al-Fashir city which started operating only a few months ago. Another 5 MW project in Al-Daien city is currently under construction.
- The national renewable energy strategy and masterplan have not yet been finalized.
- There are few policy instruments to stimulate investments in renewable energy projects.
- No feed-in tariffs or net-metering policies.
- No grid code or technical specifications for renewable energy systems.
- Customs and taxes on renewable energy equipment pose a burden on product importers (and subsequently the customer).
- Sudan’s fragile economic conditions (high inflation rate, limited access to international funding, U.S. sanctions) have limited any kind of foreign investment in renewable energy.
- Local R&D activities in renewable energy are very modest.
- The local market is currently almost exclusively focusing on solar-powered water pumping systems (due to their economic competitiveness) and other applications of renewables are still underdeveloped.
- Sudan has a renewable energy data crisis! Data about renewable energy in Sudan is dispersed in several sources (or missing or not published) and there’s no central national database for researcher, investors, and other stakeholders to refer to.
Most of the above challenges can be attributed to poor governance and a weak institutional structure. The current institutional structure for renewable energy is very fragile and, under the previous Government, was distributed among several departments or units within the former Ministry of Water Resources, Irrigation, and Electricity (MWRE). Under the current new transitional government and its new Ministry of Energy and Mining, there is a lot of uncertainty about the new institutional structure for renewable energy. Currently, all the renewable energy affairs are managed by three entities: 1) the Dept. of Rural Electrification which operates under the Sudanese Electricity Distribution Company, 2) the Directorate for Renewable and Alternative Energy which operates under the Sudan Electricity Hold Company which effectively owns all public companies in the local electricity market, and 3) the Dept. of Renewable Energy at the Dams Implementation Unit which operates within the former MWRE. I believe this dispersed structure has been one of the main causes of the stagnation of renewable energy activities in Sudan. However, there are some positive indications that, under the new Ministry of Energy and Mining, a new efficient structure will be developed for renewable energy under one comprehensive entity.
So, what can be done to develop the enabling environment for renewable energy in Sudan? And how can Sudan be transformed to an emerging market for clean energy in the region? I think that there are five main things we need to do:
- Plan! We need a national renewable energy strategy, first and foremost! A national strategy should set the path for the future and define the goals and objectives all stakeholders need to align their activities to. This strategy must ultimately identify the technical, economic, financial, legal, and institutional measures needed to achieve the defined goals. Sudan can draw of lessons from the experiences of several African nations in renewable energy strategies such as Egypt (National Renewable Energy Strategy 2020), Morocco (National Energy Strategy 2012-2020), and Ghana (Renewable Energy Master Plan 2030). Sudan can also seek technical assistance in this regard from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to conduct a renewables readiness assessment (RRA). Sudan has already taken some steps in this regard by working closely with the Arab League’s Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) to develop a national renewable energy action plan based on the template jointly developed by RCREEE and IRENA. This national renewable energy strategy should be aligned with the global sustainable development agenda and also with the regional African development vision (Agenda 2063).
- Build institutions and develop human capacity: Without a dedicated renewable energy authority or entity, it is very difficult to develop the local market. Such an entity has a critical role in coordinating all efforts in renewable energy from various stakeholders (public and private). Among the commendable regional experiences in this regard is the Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority and Morocco’s Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN). Government institutions are not sufficient on their own to develop the market. Other stakeholders such as EPC project developers, suppliers, entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers also need to develop institutions, coalitions, market associations, and networks to coordinate their work, share experiences, and have a common platform to voice their concerns to the concerned authorities. Similarly, extensive efforts are needed to develop local capacity in the financial sector, legal institutions, educational and R&D institutions, and commercial and manufacturing sectors.
- Assess resources and technology: You can develop what you can’t measure! Hence, it is essential that we conduct a comprehensive assessment of the technical, realizable, and long-term potential of renewable energy in Sudan. We also need to assess the most suitable technologies for Sudan’s climate and current and projected demand. A national renewable energy database must be developed.
- Mobilize funds: Once we have identified the action areas, we need to mobilize public and private funds to accomplish our goals. The U.S. sanctions imposed on Sudan for almost three decades have limited access to international funding; however, under the new civil government, it seems that these sanctions may be lifted soon. The development of a national clean energy fund (in cooperation with international organizations like the United Nations Development Program UNDP) can be a good starting step. The role of Islamic financial institutions in clean energy investments should be explored in depth.
- Reform policies, codes, and standards: Transitioning to an emerging market, requires bold reforms in the electricity sector, in terms of power generation policies, electricity tariffs, subsidies, and introducing grid codes for power generation by non-utilities. A number of policy instruments are essential to stimulate the market such as feed-in-tariffs net-metering, and time-of-use tariffs.
I think there’s no better to conclude this article than with Thomas Edison’s quote: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that!”
- International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) RESource Database: http://resourceirena.irena.org/gateway/countrySearch/?countryCode=SDN
- Press Release ‘Ghana’s Renewable Energy Master Plan Out-doored’. https://www.gh.undp.org/content/ghana/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2019/renewable_energy_masterplan.html
- Renewable Energy Country Profile (Sudan 2012). Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE). https://www.rcreee.org/sites/default/files/sudan_fact_sheet_print.pdf
- IEA, IRENA, UNSD, WB, WHO (2019), Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2019, Washington DC. Accessible online: https://trackingsdg7.esmap.org
- Africa Energy Portal Database. https://africa-energy-portal.org/country/sudan
- World Bank Open Data. https://data.worldbank.org
- International Energy Agency (IEA) Data and statistics. https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics
- Arab League Energy Department, RCREEE, IRENA. Pan-Arab Renewable Energy Strategy 2030 Roadmaps of Action for Implementation. https://www.irena.org/mena/Pan-Arab-Clean-Energy-Initiative