CLIMATE CHANGE

Rural folks energy potential untapped

The greatest hindrance is bureaucracy.

In Summary
  • A significant population in poor regions still use inefficient and polluting cooking systems while others have no access to energy.
  • Africa has the potential to exploit available renewable energy sources and propel its economy to a world-class standard without relying heavily on nonrenewable sources.
Heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in regions across the globe as warming continues.
Heat waves will become increasingly prevalent in regions across the globe as warming continues.
Image: FILE

The rate at which fossil fuels are burnt has led to high amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere resulting in increased global temperatures hence climate change. According to the CIA, more than 66 percent of electricity generated globally is from fossil fuels, while eight percent is from nuclear energy; both are nonrenewable sources of energy.

As the global population increases and human needs and wants change, energy consumption also goes up. According to IEA (iea.org/newsroom), global energy demand grew by 2.3 percent in 2018, the fastest pace in the last decade. This is associated with global growth and the need for cooling and heating services. Despite the increase in energy demand and the increased number of people electrified, a significant population in poor regions still use inefficient and polluting cooking systems while others have no access to energy.

According to the UN SDG Knowledge Platform, the renewable energy share of total energy consumption increased from 16.6 percent in 2015 to 17.5 percent in 2017. Still, faster change is needed to meet climate goals.

Africa, on the other hand, has the potential to exploit the available renewable energy sources and propel its economy to a world-class standard without relying heavily on nonrenewable sources. In spite of the enormous potential to shift to 100 percent green energy in the next few years, commitment to exploit it, especially among rural communities, is lacking.

It is about time African nations looked beyond politics and supported innovative minds. Renewable energy is the present and future. Invest in several small renewable energy power initiatives instead of putting billions of money in fossil fuels.

Recently, I participated in a week-long Renewable Energy Leadership Program in Africa held in Arusha, Tanzania, and convened by Hivos East Africa that brought together professionals and champions of cleaner energy sources for a sustainable future from southern and East African countries.

As part of the training, we had a chance to visit individuals and groups producing their energy using renewable sources in Tanzania.

A notable example is the hydro-power mini-grid generating 230kw and only consumes 100kw in their 70ha flower farm while the remaining 130kw goes to waste. A few homes nearby get power from the mini-grid at no charge. The long-term plan for the plant is to sell excess power to the national grid. Their intention has not been straightforward because of bureaucracy. The irony is that energy goes to waste, while some homes nearby have no electricity.

I also visited a rural village that, for a long time, had water problems; residents walked for several kilometres and spent hours waiting to fill up a 20-litre container. The village elder decided to dig a borehole that now utilises solar power to pump water and supply to homesteads. At the moment, several homes get water at their doorsteps while others collect the water at the nearby water point at a low cost.

Similarly, individuals and organisations have established clean cooking systems to promote a cleaner environment and improve people’s health.

While the progress towards achieving a 100 percent renewable energy planet is encouraging, the potential of rural communities to generate energy has not been exploited fully. They lack the necessary support.

The greatest hindrance is bureaucracy. It is about time African nations looked beyond politics and supported innovative minds. Renewable energy is the present and future. Invest in several small renewable energy power initiatives instead of putting billions of money in fossil fuels.

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