By Isabella Njeri

With over half of Africa’s population still lacking electricity access, Kenya hosted the world’s greatest gathering on energy efficiency for the first time on African soil.

Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, hosted the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s 9th Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency to accelerate progress on doubling energy efficiency by 2030 – a vital goal for addressing climate change, energy costs and access.

The two-day conference from 21-22 May, follows November’s COP28 climate summit, where nations committed to doubling overall energy efficiency progress by 2030 as a key tool for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Efficiency measures like building insulation, LED lights and industrial process improvements can reduce energy demand and expenses for households, businesses and industry.

However, achieving this ambitious target will require overcoming significant financial, technological and workforce hurdles – especially in developing economies.

Davis Chirchir, Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Petroleum

Speaking during the event, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Energy and Petroleum, Davis Chirchir stressed that collaboration across government, civil society, private sectors and global stakeholders is vital for achieving energy efficiency and the need to balance affordability with optimizing consumption through measures like reducing distribution losses.

“We are in a position to realize the full potential of energy conservation and efficiency, which will benefit both the current and future generations, by embracing innovation, implementing best practices, and encouraging cooperation,” said Chirchir.

He advocated for expanding energy efficiency efforts to critical areas like clean cooking, which still relies heavily on polluting wood fuel across Africa. “Instead of having three meals cooked using woodfuel, we must transition to access clean fuels, reducing respiratory disease and giving dignity to our people,” he stated.

“The fact that we are here in Kenya is a very strong signal of how important this continent is in the energy revolution,” stated Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy. “Energy efficiency will be key, not just for high energy-consuming countries but also here in Africa where too many still lack reliable energy access.”

She noted that energy efficiency is critical for the energy transition and enhancing competitiveness, adding that together with renewables, it is essential to meet the world’s growing energy demand.

Commissioner Simson outlined a “three-point plan” for unblocking investment in energy which comprises, strong regulatory frameworks to provide market certainty, efficient use of limited public funding to catalyze innovation and deeper engagement with private investors, who must provide 80% of the required capital.

The German Energy Agency’s CEO, Corinna Anders, stressed the inseparable link between energy efficiency and renewable deployment in meeting climate goals and achieving an equitable energy transition.

“Energy efficiency is not only a core solution for emissions mitigation, it is also an opportunity for social and economic development, better livelihoods and more resilient economies,” stated Anders. “Prioritizing efficiency first reduces supply risks, enhances affordability and improves people’s lives.”