Ogundiran Soumonni School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology 685 Cherry Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0345, U.S.A. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Key words: Distributed Generation, Appropriate Technology, Intermediate Technology, Energy Policy, African Epistemology, African Environmental EthicsAbstract
Africa’s quest for economic development will require the increased availability and use of its abundant energy resources. However, most of its rural population remains without access to modern energy services, and urban residents typically only enjoy an intermittent supply of electricity. Nevertheless, the dominant approach to energy planning continues to be top-down and centralized, emphasizing electricity generation from large dams or fossil-fueled plants and subsequent grid extension to reach more customers. The purpose of this paper is to compare the current “Master Plan” of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) with Distributed Generation (DG) as an alternative paradigm for electrification in the subregion. The “Master Plan” addresses subregional power supply shortage through centralized planning, while “DG” offers a more democratic approach, and stresses small-scale, on-site generation of clean power from the sun, wind, or biomass. First, the paper analyzes the two approaches with respect to three of the main characteristics of Appropriate Technology as outlined by E.F. Schumacher , namely: resource sustainability, suitability as ‘intermediate technologies’ and ownership. In the context of resource sustainability, it also evaluates the two approaches with respect to their demand for water, which compete with other uses such as irrigation, drinking, and sanitation. Finally, the paper explores the dominant environmental values in traditional West Africa such as ‘eco-bio-communitarianism’ or the ‘ethics of nature relatedness’, implying a communal societal ethos and a quest for balance with the environment. The main policy recommendation is that the adoption of DG technologies should be grounded in these values, which can provide an ethic, an internal logic, and an epistemological basis for energy planning in the subregion.