Renewable energy access: towards a modern legal African Union energy framework
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The lack of access to energy, specifically modern energy, and the heavy reliance on traditional biomass (collectively referred to as energy poverty) is often blamed for negative health impacts and poor overall socio-economic development on the African continent. Renewable energy (RE) has been identified as a modern energy source and increased access to such energy is an important measure to address the issues mentioned above. Recognising the important role of RE access, the African Union (AU) called on member states to increase their RE access (among other modern energy sources). Increased RE access as one of the areas of common concern is mandated by the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community, 1992, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, 2000 and the Convention of the African Energy Commission, 2001. In giving effect to the AU mandate, sub-regional economic communities (RECs) have adopted RE frameworks and other initiatives such as the Treaty Establishing the Economic Community of Central African States, 1983, the ECCAS & CEMAC White Paper: Regional Policy for Universal Access to Modern Energy (2014), the Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States, 1975, ECOWAS Energy Protocol, 2007, the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Policy, 2012, Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community, 1999, the Treaty Establishing the Southern African Community, 1992, and the Southern African Community Energy Protocol, 1996 among others. The aim of this study is to identify the necessary components of a possible AU legal energy framework. RE access is mostly regulated by soft law instruments (at the international and regional levels) with no specific RE provision, targets, mechanisms or specific frameworks regulating increased RE access. The RECs are important role players in achieving increased RE access. It is recommended that the AU should adopt a modern legal binding energy framework that promotes increased RE access. This framework should spell out clear objectives and targets and mechanisms to achieve them. These targets and objectives of the AU legal energy framework should be informed by the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and its targets, as well as the IRENA RE mechanisms and international best practices. The RECs should set their own RE targets and mechanisms based on those of the AU legal energy framework.
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