Renewable Energy Despite Challenges




There are many developing countries that are currently working on their own renewable energy initiatives. Africa’s heads of state announced last year that they will launch their attempt to increase their green power generation by 300gw, which is twice their current annual electricity output.

Based on official reports, there are 640 million Africans who do not have access to electricity, while 700 million of them have no access to green energy. They use charcoal and kerosene to generate power.

“The initiative is a game-changer as Africa loses four percent of its GDP due to lack of clean energy, according to Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank (AfDB). He was to the point when he said sunshine should do more than just nourish our crops; it must light our homes. Our massive water resources should do more than water our farms; it should power our industries. Potential is important, but homes and industries cannot be powered by potential; Africa must unlock its renewable energy potentials.

Although Africa is working hard to boost its green power, the continent is still the biggest fossil fuel user in the world. In a chart presented by Index Mundi, its year-on-year oil consumption is still increasing from 1,402.75 barrels in 1980 to 3,520.29 barrels in 2013. In fact, this challenge is not only limited to Africa. Leading nations around the world, such as the United States where renewable energy projects are ongoing, still rely heavily on fossil fuels such as petrol.

The oil and gas industry’s recent mishaps, decreasing market price and oversupply, have led to more consumers relying on cheaper fossil fuels rather than alternative power sources. And these issues have also affected many other industries and businesses.

However, while some of the smaller oil companies buckled under the pressure of a challenging market place, experienced multi-national companies have come out the other end much stronger. Some of these took this opportunity to partner with other oil and gas companies to sustain their growth and keep strong social networks active during this time.

Businesses in Africa are also slowly adopting the idea of green energy, as most of them finally see its potential and benefits to their companies in the long-term. Mahama Nyankamawu, owner of solar power project, Volta, believes African businesses are saving up to 45pc on their costs by switching to solar.

While businesses and consumers are ready to make the shift, it appears Africa still lacks the funding to fulfill the bold renewable energy forecasts. If it does not reach its forecasts Africa may struggle to solve the ongoing ‘energy poverty’ crisis that is rampant in the continent.

This is a timely alert from Anima M. George, World Bank’s Senior Director for Energy & Extractives Global Practice. She is right in pointing out what we need is for stakeholder – governments, civil society, energy suppliers and consumers – to work towards achieving sustainable energy for all.

For a considerable amount of time, South Africa has endured frequent power outages that usually last for over 12 hours. It is now common to see flickering lights in the streets and roads of Africa’s second largest economy due to the intermittent power supplies in the country.

Since 2010, South Africa has vowed to launch renewable energy projects to generate 18gw of power, making the nation one of the leaders in renewable energy transformation. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) investment in green power rose by 329pc or 4.5 billion dollars from 2014 to 2015.

Energy coming from wind and sun was once seen by many naysayers as an expensive investment that could only be afforded by richer and fully developed nations, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. However, Africa proved that developing nations are able to be sustainable by pushing their own renewable power projects.

Other countries, such as China, Turkey, Uganda, India and Morocco have increased investments in sustainable energy in the past. Based on the report by UNEP, China’s investment in renewable power rose to 103 billion dollars last year, which accounts for 36pc of the world’s total investment on sustainable energy sources.

The top renewable energy sources in Africa today are solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and wood fuel. Solar and wind are the main sources of green power as hydroelectric projects can only generate one percent to four percent, especially now that the region is experiencing increasing droughts due to climate change.

However, Africa still requires up to 90 billion dollars in funding to ensure that its renewable energy projects to meet its current energy shortfall. If its governments are successful in generating enough investment to build their green projects for the continent, then Africa will become a more sustainable continent by 2030.

Africa needs to increase its annual renewable power it generates by 650pc. To achieve these goals, Africa will face challenges such as finding steady investment to support the projects; increasing the knowledge of countries with less experience in renewable infrastructure; and the need to hasten the building and erecting of turbines, as well as solar panels.

Although there will be plenty of challenges to face, investors are positive that Africa’s long-term renewable plans can attract far more investment than those countries hoping for speculative one-off investments. This means that the continent will be able to tackle these roadblocks and reach its goals for 2030.



By Jonathan Cormier
Aside from being an avid backpacker and a university professor, Jonathan Cormier is a lifelong advocate of renewable energy and environmental initiatives.

Published on Jul 12,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 845]


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