ECOWAS Bioenergy Program

The energy system of West Africa is facing interrelated challenges of energy access, energy security and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Principal among these challenges are the heavy dependence of the ever-increasing population on traditional biomass resources, in the form of fuelwood and charcoal, often utilized in an unsustainable manner.  This high dependence on the natural forest contributes to deforestation and desertification, smoke-related health risks and negative environmental consequences. Recent global trends in promoting biofuels in the region, in the wake of very high oil prices in 2007/8, resulted in unsustainable solutions resulting in negative social and environmental challenges.

According to the energy balance of the region, almost 80% of the total energy demand comes from traditional biomass.  In addition, over 90% of the population use wood and charcoal for domestic cooking and heating. Wood resources are harvested from the natural forests because they are almost ‘free for all’ considering the weak legal and regulatory regimes and enforcements for wood and charcoal production and trade.

The Region’s experience on sustainable Biomass (or Bioenergy) services has not made progress over the years. These include intervention strategies by governments of the Region to introduce sustainable Bioenergy and reduce the heavy dependence of the populations on traditional biomass by:

  • Promoting efficient cookstoves for both wood and charcoal;
  • Implementation of plantation and woodlot projects to supplement the wood requirements of the populations for both the construction industry and for cooking;
  • Promoting alternative cooking fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene (kerosene is not clean and sustainable),
  • Promotion of renewable energy resources including biogas, biomass produced from agro-industrial waste and invasive plant species called ‘typha australis’;

These national interventions had mixed results with some interventions having little success.

In order to approach the challenges of providing Bioenergy services in a sustainable and efficient manner, ECREEE was established to lead and coordinate efforts at the regional level with a mandate  to develop and promote clean, efficient and sustainable energy supply.

To achieve its mandate, ECREEE in collaboration with the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) organised the Regional Bioenergy Forum in Bamako, Mali: March 19 – 21, 2012 to elaborate and validate the ECOWAS Bioenergy Strategy Framework. The ECOWAS Bioenergy Strategy was adopted by the ECOWAS Ministers of Energy at the ECOWAS-GFSE High Level Energy Forum in Accra, Ghana on the 31st October 2012.

The ECOWAS Regional Bioenergy Strategy aims to increase food and energy security in the ECOWAS Region though sustainable production and utilization of bioenergy resources. One of the ECOWAS initiatives on Clean Cooking called West Africa Clean Cooking Alliance (WACCA), was launched in Accra, Ghana on the 29th October 2012 and is being implemented as part of this Strategy.

WACCA aims to provide access to clean, efficient, safe and affordable cooking energy in the ECOWAS region. It will promote the use of very efficient stoves and alternative fuels such as bioethanol, biogas, briquettes and LPG (liquefied Petroleum Gas) for cooking and heating.