A review of energy communities in Sub-Saharan Africa

A review of energy communities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

Energy communities have received considerable attention in the Global North, especially in Europe, due to their potential for achieving sustainable energy transitions. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), energy communities have received less attention partly due to the nascent energy systems in many emerging SSA states. In this paper, we argue that these nascent energy systems offer an opportunity to co-create energy communities that can tackle the energy access challenges faced by most SSA countries. To understand how such energy communities are realised in the sub-region, we undertake a systematic review of research on energy communities in 46 SSA countries. Our findings show that only a few energy projects exhibit the conventional characteristics of energy communities; In most of these projects, local communities are inadequately resourced to institute and manage their own projects. We thus look to stakeholder engagement approaches to propose co- design as a strategy for strengthening energy communities in SSA. We further embed our co-design proposal in energy democracy thinking to argue that energy communities can be a pathway towards equity and energy justice in SSA. We conclude that energy communities can indeed contribute to improving energy access in Africa, but they need an enabling policy environment to foster their growth and sustainability.