We spoke with Ifey Ikeonu, an independent energy policy, markets and regulation consultant, in an exclusive Women in Energy interview which was featured, in part, in the ESI Africa Magazine: Issue 1-2022.
Since speaking with us in Issue 2 of the ESI Africa magazine in 2017, Ifey Ikeonu has been working actively as an energy sector consultant, focusing primarily on providing advisory services on energy policy, markets, regulations, energy access and renewable energy for public and private sector clients across several countries in Africa.
Interview with Ifey Ikeonu
ESI: What have been the highlights of your involvement in the energy sector?
I have been working on projects and assignments that have enabled me to support various initiatives towards the development of regulatory frameworks for regional electricity markets and power pools; the development of business models and regulations for renewable energy and energy access programmes; supporting regulators on best practices in economic and technical regulation as well as facilitation of capacity building programmes on a continuing basis on Electricity Markets and Regulation. Recently, we were privileged to serve as consultants in the development of the Guidelines for Advancing Economic and Quality of Service Regulation in Africa’s Electricity Sector, which we hope will improve regulatory performance outcomes in the continent.
I have also been proactive in the areas of gender mainstreaming in the energy sector through supporting clients in the development of institutional gender mainstreaming plans and strategies as well as promoting capacity building and advocacy on gender mainstreaming in energy projects. I am still passionate about mentoring younger women in the energy sector and have been part of various mentoring initiatives, including the Global Women’s Network for Energy Transition, where I volunteer as a mentor on a yearly basis.
ESI: What developments in the energy sector are you looking forward to in the coming years?
As a continent, Africa has struggled to meet the Sustainable Energy for All Goals and it is apparent that we will not be able to meet any of the three goals by 2030, based on the current rate of progress in the sector. In spite of this, I am hopeful that, with the upsurge of innovative technologies as well as the emergence of new business models, we will be able to take advantage of the new trends, particularly as enablers towards increasing access to energy. I believe that the historical business models employed by utilities will have to be re-engineered to enable them to become more competitive and customer-focused, especially as we see a growth in prosumers and a growing trend of commercial and industrial customers opting out of grid connections for off-grid power solutions.
I look forward to regulators and policymakers on the continent proactively putting in place the right policy and regulatory frameworks that can optimise these emerging trends. These developments must be seen as complementing each other towards increasing access to energy and also ensuring the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency hence the need for country-specific programmes and initiatives to leverage these opportunities.
ESI: If you were an energy minister, what would be your first decree? And why?
From my experience working in the power sector as well as my last few years as a consultant, one recurrent gap I see across the power sector in several countries, including mine is the absence of well-structured integrated resources planning. Integrated Resource Planning for the power sector is a planning mechanism incorporating supply- and demand-side resources in a technology-neutral manner to identify least-cost futures under a given set of constraints. The financial sustainability of the power sector ultimately depends on a very well-developed IRP and systematic implementation of the plan over the long term.
As a minister, I would not only direct that the IRP be done but ensure that all relevant sector stakeholders are part of the process and would, most importantly, establish mechanisms that will ensure that the IRP is implemented. The power sector cannot develop and will continue to be unsustainable without long-term planning incorporating all the emerging technologies and business models in the power sector as well as relevant synergies across the various regional power pools that exist in the continent today. ESI