Energy associations and their place in driving sustainability

The energy industry is a wide array of all the sectors involved in the production and supply of energy. The energy sector is to a great extent at the heart of the sustainability agenda as reflected in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as SDG 7 that seeks to avail affordable and clean energy. Some energy associations in Kenya involved with sustainable energy include the Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) founded in 2002 and the Sustainable Energy Access Forum Kenya (SEAF- K) established in 2014.

Sustainable development is a major issue that the world is turning its attention to. Principle 3 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development defined as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generations. With regard to the energy sector, this can be done through sustainable energy, which ensures that energy is produced in a manner that is affordable and measures are taken to ensure it does not become depleted so as to serve the needs of the current generation and safeguard the needs of the future through taking environmental considerations. Renewable energy, such as solar, wind and hydroelectricity are some of the most effective ways employed to achieve sustainability in the energy sector.

Energy associations have a crucial role to play in enabling the transition to sustainable energy. They create a platform for engagement between the different players in the sector such as the government, investors, civil societies and non-governmental organizations in the energy sector. They serve as an avenue for collaboration in discussing sector-wide issues in light of the sustainability agenda.

Energy associations are well positioned to act as forums in the dissemination and exchange of information and ideas on sustainability. The Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) for example has this as one of its key roles. This information may be in the form of expert knowledge passed on to other actors in the sector, the general public and even the government. It includes information on innovation and that on sustainable solutions to be employed in the production and supply of energy in Kenya. Further, it includes raising awareness among the public on the need to shift to green energy and the need to cooperate to ensure sustainability.

Energy associations play the role of representing the interests of the players in the renewable industry. This can be through influencing policy formulations that caters for their interests. It includes proposing legislation for matters such as reduction in tariffs and barriers in the production of renewable energy in off grid areas. The energy associations therefore can campaign for such reforms that will provide an enabling environment for companies and other actors in the sustainable energy industry to work efficiently in providing sustainable energy solutions in Kenya.

Further, they aid in identifying the gaps in the energy sector, especially the renewable energy sector and seek to provide solutions to overcome these challenges to ensure efficient energy production and supply. Some of the strains that companies in the energy sector experience include constraints on capital, technology and skills. The associations thus voice out these concerns and seek support in overcoming them through partnerships with other energy associations or international energy bodies.

One such international body is Energy 4 Impact which is an organization that is primarily concerned with aiding businesses in Africa to provide access to energy so as to improve the quality of life for Africans in areas where sustainable energy is not accessible. It offers business-specific technical, operational, financial and strategic support to enable actors in the energy industry to grow and expand their market in sustainable energy.

With such immense influential powers, care should be taken not to turn energy associations into cartels setting energy costs and dictating the direction the industry should take.