Energy in Cameroon
Investments in the energy sector holds a key position in the strategy for Cameroon to become an emerging country by 2035. Hydropower is the main renewable energy source in the country, and represents the third largest hydro potential in Africa, estimated at 23GW (UNIDO, 2019). With this abundant energy resource, Cameroon intends to play a decisive role in the development of the Central Africa Power Pool and is involved in a number of cross-border electrification projects in the sub-Region (AfDB, 2017). However, at the national level the energy scene hasn’t moved enough. The national oil refinery plant has remained a wreck as a result of a violent fire in May 2019 and, the Mekin and Memve'ele hydropower plants are still struggling to operate at full capacity since they were commissioned two years ago. In addition, people across the country continue to express their distress over the severe energy deficit that affects their daily lives. However, the continuation of construction work on the Nachtigal dam and some progress in negotiations on several energy infrastructure development projects should be noted.
In the light of the national energy strategy, these recent developments seem to be well perceived by energy leaders, as reflected through the 2020 Issues Monitor Survey. Specifically, improving Energy Access through a more Decentralised System of power supply, which may result from the implementation of effective Support Mechanisms, summaries the top three issues to be prioritised in 2021. Moreover, Cameroon’s energy leaders’ perspectives provide an Uncertainties landscape clustered around Affordability, Investor Environment, Support Mechanism and, Trade and Investment Policies. Action Priorities are led by an effort to promote Regional Integration, Economic Trends and, Climate Adaptation.
Energy leaders view energy access as the key priority. The World Bank has estimated the rate of access to electricity in Cameroon in 2019 at 62.66% for a population of 26 million inhabitants (World Bank, 2020). This means that approximately 9.7 million Cameroonians still suffer from lack of access to electricity and other modern energy services. This issue therefore remains a priority to be addressed with regard to the short-term development objectives set by the government. To this end, it is nevertheless a priority to implement or make effective the existing support mechanisms. Indeed, the low level of private participation in the energy sector is the result of the lack of clarity on the support mechanisms put in place by the government. The 2011 law governing the electricity sector mentions a number of tax and customs advantages on investments in renewable energies. However, their current implementation seems to be insufficient to encourage private investors who have a crucial role to play in the development strategy of the electricity sector in Cameroon.
According to energy leaders in Cameroon, there are some aspects of the local energy landscape that are key to advancing the global energy transition: the abundance of renewable energy sources such as solar, small hydro, wind and biomass gives room to diversifying and decarbonising the country’s energy system. Market design and governance is expected to experience a significant step ahead as a result of the transfer of authority to regional governments, which effectively started with the first ever regional elections held on 6 December 2020. This reinforcement of the regions' authority could be expected to have a significant impact on the governance of the country's energy system, especially the effective liberalisation of the energy sector, the empowerment of independent power producers and ultimately, a more decentralised power supply system as this is considered as a key enhancer of energy access in rural areas across the country.