We recently caught up with Frédérique de Man, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Rwanda reflecting on the recent Sustainable Energy Week held in Kigali in addition to her hopes for Sustainable Development Goal 7 and the upcoming COP24 event.
A few weeks ago, as a part of the Rwanda Sustainable Energy week, I had the honor to speak during the opening of the First-ever Clean Cooking investment Forum. It was a great experience. The Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) was full with excitement and energy. Winston Churchill once said while visiting my student club in the Netherlands: ‘I feel tremendous forces in this room’. The atmosphere in KCC made me feel the same. And tremendous forces will be necessary to achieve SDG7; to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Clean cooking will be an import element of the road to be travelled on, towards 2030. The figure is known but I will repeat it once more: nearly 3 billion people still rely on wood or other solid biomass to cook their food.
Also in the country where I am working, Rwanda, the majority of the population still relies on firewood for cooking. Whenever I visited schools, hospitals or prisons I was shocked by the amount of firewood needed, every day for these institutions alone, not taking into account the firewood needs of the ‘regular’ households. It is extremely urgent to change this situation and introduction of modern, clean cooking solutions, will have to play a central role in this transformation
Clean cooking stoves are not a new invention. For years, all kind of products have been tried and introduced. Few of them offered a sustainable solution. So why am I now more confident than before that a real difference can be made? It is because we look at different approaches. We all knew that supporting clean cooking solutions makes common sense but we understand now also that it also has to make business sense. I firmly believe in market solutions. However, I also see that the market still needs support because despite progress and exciting innovations, the clean cooking sector still has difficulty attracting investments allowing for scale-up.
Therefore, the Government of the Netherlands is for the time being willing to be part of public-private partnerships. As soon as a market has been successfully established, we – the public part – will move on in order to avoid market distortion. The Government of Rwanda also sees the advantages of public-private partnerships. Recently it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a solar cooking firm, Inyenyeri, which will bring clean cooking to almost one million households by 2024.
When later during the same Renewable Energy Week, I spoke at the Solar Plaza event, and made again a pitch for market solutions for energy transformation I was approached by several participants who told me that they were so impressed by a government representative making the case for public-private partnerships. While I said that this is an essential element of Dutch Foreign Trade and Development policies and that I was amazed that they were so excited about it, their answer was: ‘the Dutch Government is still one of the few’. Which one the one hand made me feel proud, and on the other showed again the enormity and the urgency of the task ahead, the tremendous forces, I referred to earlier.
Nevertheless, if you ask me whether we can make it happen and whether COP24 can give a boost to innovative and positive forces, let me quote another statesman:’Yes we can’.