What is an energy transition, and in what ways has Mozambique’s energy transition been “incomplete”?

Energy transition is the move towards a system which uses more of renewable sources as well as maximising available opportunities from increased efficiency of energy and improved management of the energy demand. This transition has been particularly difficult for Mozambique which is a post conflict country for. Independence at the end of 1975 was followed by a civil war between 1977 and 1992 resulting in economic decline and left the nation in shambles. Which then led to donor withdrawal resulting in less funds directed to social sectors such as electricity. (Newell, Mulvaney, 2013).Although effort has been made after this to move toward renewable energy sources and provision of energy for the wider population. According to sustainable development goal 7 ,the construction of the 40.5 MW photovoltaic station was able to provide 10 out of 22 districts with electricity which has further  increased electrification rates to 54.5% in urban areas while in rural areas access remains low at 5.7% areas in 2012(Washington 2017).and this is particularly evident in fig 1.Frelimmo the current government in partnership with FUNAE aims to reduce domestic energy poverty and to make it more affordable focusing more on grid based electrification. Were 21% of the population has been able to access this by 2011(EDM, 2011).WHAT ABOUT THE REMAINING 79% OF THE POPULATION? Which brings me to the discussion of why Mozambique’s energy transition has been incomplete. This is particularly important as it allows us to measure and monitor progress of what has already been put in place towards this transition as well as assessing why it is still incomplete and what could be done to improve the already existing methods. Therefore in this essay I argue for the side that the Energy transition has been incomplete. The first section will explore the evidence towards the incomplete transition of Mozambique while we will also examine the extent to which the country has made great improvements in moving towards sustainable energy provision to a wider population as well looking at what other countries in sub Saharan Africa have done and how Mozambique could probably do the same. Then lastly evaluate and look at some of the factors which has contributed to the energy transition being incomplete, what improvements could be done and what was done well despite the incompleteness of their transition

The Incomplete   Energy Transition

In 1997 the government’s main focus was to supply kerosene in rural areas which lacked energy services (Cuamba et al 2013).In the early 2000s with the help of Asian and European donors the nation was more focused on renewables such as hydro solar and wind, were FUNAE installed a 1.2 MW of PV capacity. According to ( FUNAE,2012) 1.5 million people benefited from the solar systems by 2012 with 0.8 wp per person this has particularly made a difference in rural areas were access was as low as 0.2 wp per person with some having non( Cuamba,2012).This has been linked with rural development were it has been used for lighting schools ,homes and hospitals. However( Jenkins,2016) is criticised  for mentioning the proportion of those who actually benefited from this against the whole rural population as only a few could have benefited yet classified as “majority”. Due to this it is still regarded that the transition is incomplete due to lack of quantitative evidence of who has actually benefited.(Ahlborg et al 2014) also backs this up by pointing out how FUNAEs distribution of energy was uneven because the initial cost of electrification was very expensive which kicks out majority of the rural population out of the equation as they cannot afford excluding shop keepers and those who had small business who could afford to take up loans as they had an income to enable them to pay the debt up. This also included chiefs, and head teachers houses who would have connection while the other residents are disconnected which highlighted selective distribution.

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Disperse settlements in rural Mozambique and the low population densities for both on and off the grid would bypass most rural dwellers. Therefore concluding that FUNAE was rather more concerned with covering a wider geographical location than actually making sure everyone receives energy which leaves the transition incomplete.

Figure 1 illustrates the low energy rates which still exist in rural areas compared to urban areas in Mozambique

“Before Independence in 1995 thermal power was the main source of energy with little input from hydropower or any other sources” (Cuamba et al 2013).The Cahora dam which was opened in 1974 provided on the grid hydro power to 90% of Mozambique’s population as well as exporting to South Africa .This led to an upgrade of the electricity infrastructure in Maputo. This grid managed to connect 125 out of 128 areas (Ouchim 2013).This being said this electrification process was mainly focused on the urban areas of Maputo which meant that the rural areas remained side-lined and with no access to energy. In areas were solar panels had been connected residents still had no access to energy due to poor knowledge and information on how to use it which defeated the purpose of the panels being there. For example in Chinhambuzi district North of Mozambique the 3.6 KWP capacity was insufficient to link majority of the houses which left most household to use charcoal and wood for cooking and heating water (Besharati, 2012).Hence we are able to see that the focus was one sided and only focused on rural areas which meant that the transition will not be complete as the largest population of the country is in the rural areas.

What Improvements have been done?

When look back at Mozambique’s past we can actually see a significant difference in the energy transition over the years before and after Independence.(FUNAE,2014)) states that from 1997 to 2014 FUNAE electrified 280 villages with 191 were powered by solar pv systems 69 with diesel generators ,580 schools and 561health centres. Rates have improved drastically to 50.5% having access compared to 20.2% in 1999.although supply is still unaffordable according to fig 2majority still rely on charcoal and biomass to meet energy needs where fuelwood  is the primary source in rural  and charcoal  in rural .Partnership[s with Norwegian energy producers ,International finance corporation (IFC) have played an important role in illustrating the importance of energy transition as well supporting sustainable development goal 7 .This has allowed renewable technologies to change expectations in rural areas through offering alternatives in the urban areas. In my opinion this hasn’t been very successful because deforestation to access wood still continues and the reason might be insufficient knowledge given to the residence on the use and importance of switching to renewable sources, therefore FUNAE and the running organisations needed to educate the population on the use of the systems they are putting which has been absent thus preventing full effectiveness.

Figure 2 shows us the considerable increase in the supply rate of electricity at the end of the world war although it still remains unaffordable to a larger part of the rural population

What other countries have done

Other African countries have taken the lead in their energy transitions with the help of other countries. For example we are able to see that in Kenya they have largely enhanced the use of energy systems particularly solar energy to power mobile money transfers for example the mpesa services which are used by majority of the population including the rural population. This is an off the grid review powered by Mkopa and has seen its way through South Africa were it has made a success rate of close to 45.5% since it was introduced in 2009(Baptista,2014).According to Department of International Development (DFID) in their interview in 2017 the use of solar power to facilitate mobile money transfer is making its way into Mozambique. However in order for this to be successful sufficient information needs to be provided to the general public on the benefits of off the grid technologies.


Although much has been done to try and improve energy transitions in Mozambique this still remains incomplete due to factors such as the distribution and production of charcoal which is localized. It is estimated by the Maputo municipal council that in 2013 charcoal prices increased by 260%(Falzon ,Vignati,2013).This has then resulted in financial pressures on the residents were 79% of them state that it reached a time when they were unable to meet their energy needs Thus concluding not that the energy insecurity is highest in Maputo despite the fact that fuels have become more available (Konning,Atanassov,2013).Nothing so far has then been done to change the idea of charcoal being part of the populations everyday life thus the shift to modern fuels is being hindered causing  the transition to remain incomplete. Renewable technologies have been noted to be spreading rapidly  in urban areas ,to ensure a complete transition delivering low carbon innovation to rural areas as well as introducing policies which will encourage integration of the of the new modes of energy into the daily live hoods of people  would be more a promising policy to ensure this change. I would also suggest a stronger collaboration between FUNAE and EDM (Electricity of Mozambique) would eradicate the self-imposed barriers and ensure working and sharing of ideas to uphold the idea of a smooth transition to a sustainable energy future in Mozambique.


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