Africa: Time to upscale renewable energy

solar panel farm09 November 2014, Frankfurt, Germany — It is no longer a secret. The world is fast running out of traditional energy sources such as coal. Furthermore, emissions from these fossil fuels have increased climate warming and caused environmental damage.

Therefore, the global community needs to start preparing for the future by embracing the use of renewable energy services and sources.

In addition to being affordable, secure and reliable, renewable energy will not be depleted and is less polluting to the environment compared to fossil energy.

Meeting in Frankfurt, Germany for the International Conference on Solar Energy Technology in Development Cooperation, energy experts said it was time the world up-scaled the use of renewable energy sources to ensure that socio-economic development is sustained.

“To significantly decrease the greenhouse gas emissions, the only possible way is to rely on energy systems based on renewable energy sources,” Werner Weiss, managing director of the Institute for Sustainable Technologies, said.

He added that the world, particularly Africa, has an abundance of renewable energy sources, which needs to be tapped to improve access to energy for all.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), southern African alone has the potential to become a “gold mine” for renewable energy due to the abundant solar and wind resources that are now hugely sought after by international investors in their quest for clean energy.

For example, the overall hydropower potential in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is estimated at about 1,080 terawatt hours per year (TWh/year) but capacity being utilised at present is just under 31 TWh/year. A terawatt is equal to one million megawatts.

The SADC region is also hugely endowed with watercourses such as the Congo and Zambezi, with the Inga Dam situated on the Congo River having the potential to produce about 40,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, according to the Southern African Power Pol (SAPP).

With regard to geothermal, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility estimate that about 4,000MW of electricity is available along the Rift Valley in Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.

Research coordinator for the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), Rana Adib said it was pleasing to note that Africa and most developing countries were fast embracing renewable energy.

She said exploring renewable energy sources is generally a complex and expensive process but is nevertheless important for socio-economic development.

There is, therefore, need for the private sector to partner with governments because the latter alone cannot improve access to energy.

“Partnership between the private sector and government is very critical in increasing the uptake of renewable energy,” Adib said.

Other energy experts attending the conference said it was also important for Africa to craft attractive policies that lure investors into the energy sector.

These incentives include a predictable and stable regulatory environment, access to finance, as well as economic stability.

In a separate interview, Technical Advisor to the SADC Secretariat Energy Division, Wolfgang Moser said efforts are underway to establish the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The proposed centre would, among other things, spearhead the promotion of renewable energy development in the region.

SACREE is expected to contribute substantially to the development of thriving regional renewable energy and energy efficiency markets through knowledge sharing and technical advice in the areas of policy and regulation, technology cooperation, capacity development, as well as investment promotion.

The International Conference on Solar Energy Technology in Development Cooperation ran from 6-7 November in Frankfurt, Germany.

A number of energy experts from Africa and other developing countries took part in the conference that aims to discuss and share knowledge and experiences on how to boost the uptake of solar energy and technologies.
*Kizito Sikuka – Southern African News

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