Exploring energy poverty perspectives in Senegal : the applicability of scenarios




Abbott, Clint L.

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Energy poverty refers to a situation where physiological energy needs are not met with the resources available for cooking, lighting, and heating. Billions of people worldwide still rely on biomass fuels such as wood, charcoal, and dung to satisfy their primary energy needs. With high population growth and urbanization trends, energy poverty is especially prominent in sub-Saharan Africa, where electrification rates remain low and biomass use continues to rise. The need for solutions and strategies to increase the access to clean, efficient and sustainable energy resources has never been greater. However, projects by local governments and international development agencies have met limited success in alleviating energy poverty concerns, largely due to a lack of local involvement in the project planning, implementation, and continued operation. One method that has been advocated as a tool to increase public participation through non-traditional techniques is the use of scenarios. Scenarios have proven effective as an aid in creating policy for various sectors, and involve describing future possible events and conditions in efforts, by decision makers, to consider possibilities that cannot be captured by studying past data. While benefits of scenario use are well documented, a paucity of literature exists regarding the procedural details and effectiveness of each stage of the scenario method. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to bring together a diverse group of research and policy professionals fi-om Senegal and examine the effectiveness of the scenario process in capturing their perspectives and priorities on energy poverty in Senegal. Research methods included document research, participant observation, focus group research, semi-structured interviewing and questionnaire surveying. A two day scenario workshop was conducted in Dakar, Senegal and involved 22 research and policy professionals. The workshop revealed that political cohesiveness, social cooperation, and economic development were the three most influential forces influencing energy access. The local participants' perspectives of the issues, barriers, and possible future outcomes of energy poverty in Senegal were documented, and the results and conclusions will help fill a void in the literature on energy poverty perspectives in West Africa and Senegal. The scenario process proved to be an effective, financially efficient means to engage policy and research professionals in a participatory process. The process fostered open communication between all participants and encouraged cooperative learning.