The concept of energy efficiency is a multidisciplinary field which includes the rational use of energy, by optimizing energy consumption at different levels of energy production, transformation and energy consumption by the final consumers at the industrial, transport, residential and tertiary sectors. It is also seen as the set of actions that minimizes the amount of energy consumed to produce one unit of a product or service while maintaining the quality.
The energy systems in West Africa are facing serious interrelated challenges of energy access, energy security and environmental degradation (notably due to deforestation and climate change). During the last several years the ECOWAS Region has gone through an energy crisis, hampering social and economic development, particularly affecting low-income population groups. The reasons are manifold: political crisis; rapidly growing electricity demand; escalating diesel and heavy fuel prices; high power generation costs and consumer tariffs; under investment; slow sector reforms and others.
Improving energy efficiency is actually one of the pathways to regulate the dynamic economies and the climate imbalance. Energy Efficiency can effectively help to eradicate the interrelated challenges of energy access, energy security, and climate change mitigation, which can be achieved through the implementation of a concrete policy framework for the application of energy efficiency measures that will contribute to reliability and security of energy supply and decreasing losses at all links in energy value chains.
High energy prices and crisis situations in many of the West African power systems provide a strong incentive to save energy through application of energy efficiency measures. There is increasing recognition that the economics of energy efficiency are very favourable and that a vast potential exists for actions, large and small, with short payback periods. High level political will exists to support the action, as shown by the mandate given to the ECOWAS Commission and UEMOA to create energy efficiency programmes, and by the decision of West African Heads of State to create ECREEE as a specialized agency focused on energy efficiency as well as renewable energy.
Energy intensity is used to measure how much energy is consumed to produce a unit of economic output. Low energy intensity indicates an efficient economy, while a high intensity indicates inefficiency. In almost all countries in the world, the energy intensity is declining, indicating improving energy efficiency. Despite the importance of making the best and wisest use of energy, the energy efficiency of West African economies has improved by only less than 1% per year over the last two decades while the East Asia have seen their energy intensity decrease by some 4% per year. In comparison, in the dynamic economies of the rest of the world region, we see that the West Africa region occupies the last position in the application of energy efficiency measures.
Convinced that energy efficiency is one of the surest ways to deal with our development challenges, the ECOWAS region has taken a giant step towards development of strategies for the efficient implementation of energy efficiency, including the development of the ECOWAS energy efficiency policy (EEEP) which was approved by the ECOWAS Energy Ministers at its 11th meeting, held in Accra (Ghana) in October 2012. The policy aims to put in place a solid institutional framework to help improve energy efficiency in the region.
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