TANZANIA has a great opportunity to become more independent from expensive and intermittent energy imports if it encourages the use of renewable energy sources, a new study presented in Johannesburg revealed.

The comprehensive study conducted by the World Future Council and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, with the

support of Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, shows that Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff policies (REFiT) are a promising mechanism to unlock renewable energy development in Africa.

Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat. REFiTs encourage investment in the generation of renewable energy - from individual home owners and communities as well as big companies by guaranteeing to buy and pay for all the electricity that is produced from renewable sources.

The 155 page report which is aimed at African policy makers, civil society and the private sector, provides an in-depth analysis of existing and drafted REFiT policies in 13 African countries: Tanzania, Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda.

The individual case studies examine the factors driving each policy and the socio-economic effects of REFiTs as well as presenting and analysing the prerequisites for their effective implementation. The study clearly shows that when tailored to local conditions, REFiT policies successfully increase the overall energy production of areas both on and off the electricity grid.

Moreover, the decentralised nature of REFiTs provides the opportunity to empower communities and to revitalise local democracy and self-governance by allowing for alternative models of ownership and governance. Ansgar Kiene, Director of the WFC Africa Office, notes: "Tanzania already opened its electricity market to independent power producers back in 1992.

Its experience with mini-grids in particular should be seen as an advantage when it comes to drafting supportive frameworks for accelerated renewable energy production. However, lack of long-term, low-interest financing has been and remains a key challenge."

The report identifies a variety of national and international measures to shift financial resources towards renewable energy uptake. These include levies on fossil fuels and contributions from the United Nation's Green Climate Fund.