Thursday, 11 June 2015
‘How Africa can power 500 million people with renewable energy’
The need for the African continent to fully exploit the renewable energy sources for power generation as once again hit the front burner, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), declared that energy insecurity is a key challenge to growth and development in Africa.
The group in a 91- page presentation to sensitize journalists on public awareness on effects and opportunities in climate change, said over 500 million people lack reliable access to affordable electricity in sub- Saharan Africa and government should make efforts to exploit renewable energy sources in their quest for power generation.
“As African nations develop, climate change presents an opportunity to fill this energy gap without relying upon the fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases. For this to happen, public and private sector players will need to coordinate their efforts to develop clean-energy supplies.
“Viable options exist to power Africa using mini-grid and of-grid solar, wind, hydro, and biomass technologies. Projects that use solar panels or small-scale hydro power to provide schools and villages with power demonstrate what is possible, but the challenge is in scaling up these solutions to meet demands across the continent,” it stated.
Besides, the group identified lack of infrastructure, funding, and comprehensive vision as factors that hinder efforts to developing clean energy solutions.
“Successful efforts to improve energy effciency can happen on a larger scale (for example, installing new national power grids), or simply involve replacing light bulbs and appliances in homes,” it added.
It is pertinent to note that across Africa, most people rely on traditional fuels such as wood, biomass, or charcoal for cooking. Smoke from these stoves not only threatens public health, but also contributes to climate change as it contains the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane.
Quoting from a World Bank study, UNESCO said feeling the energy-gap in Africa may cost up to $40 billion per year for a decade. On the other hand, it stated that reforming power utilities to run more efficiency could save up to $3.3 billion per year.
Biofuels are fuels made from living things or their waste products.
They include solid biomass such as wood or charcoal; biogas (methane produced from sewage); and liquids such as bio-ethanol and biodiesel, derived from crops such as maize, sugarcane, soybeans and jatropha.
While biofuels do emit some greenhouse gases when they burn, the plants from which they are created absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. So they appear to offer a means to provide power in a more climate-friendly way than fossil fuels.
Team Leader on Climate Change in the UNEP Regional Office for Africa, Emily Massawa, said: “Poverty eradication is Africa’s overriding priority, with people’s access to clean energy access at the centre of concern. Renewable power is found in abundance on the continent. Large areas of the African continent are ideal for solar and wind installations, and geothermal energy is already exploited in some areas.
Use of these renewable and indigenous resources mean the continent would be able to have more secure and clean energy supplies, that will also assist in breaking the cycle of high-carbon development that has led to the world being threatened by accelerating climate change.