Renewable energy ‑ tonic for Africa’s development
Countries worldwide are recognising the significant role that renewable energy can play in their national development. By early 2011, nearly 100 countries had set targets for wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy sources. This is so because power and energy play a central role in the overall framework of development planning of any nation and a vital input to growth and development of any economy.
Accordingly, countries within and across the African continent should aim to utilise renewable energy to meet a host of development priorities, including reducing carbon emissions, expanding energy access, enhancing energy security, and creating new jobs and industry opportunities.
To start with, renewable energy is energy that comes from resources, which are continually replenished such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat. About 16 percent of global final energy consumption comes from renewable resources, with 10 percent of all energy from traditional biomass, mainly used for heating and 3.4 percent from hydroelectricity.
New renewables (small hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels) account for another 3 percent and are growing very rapidly. This means that countries within and across the great African continent should also use renewable energy as a tonic for national and continental development since renewable energy presents immense benefits for the continent in the energy sector.
The Acting Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) in Nigeria, Dr Mohammed Haruna, says: “Renewable energy presents a good alternative for the nation’s growing energy demand. “The issues of global warming and climate change, the soaring global electricity demand, the scarcity of fossil fuels and their rising costs make renewable energy exploitation a good alternative.”
Apart from protecting the environment, the renewable energy brings the continent to the forefront because it is energy that is available everywhere in our continent and Africa and her citizenry can easily afford it. Unlike other natural resources, renewable energy will not deplete the natural environment and this is another reason why African countries must embrace it.
Haruna adds: “Renewable energy technologies are not only environmentally friendly but also proven for providing appreciable alternative energy for satisfying the growing energy demand in the African continent. “Embracing and harnessing these natural resources would significantly enhance local, regional national and continental sustainable developments.”
Since capacity limitation has been a major challenge for energy development in the continent, developing cost-effective energy is crucial to the continent’s quest to make progress. This should take in the generation of enough energy in a cheap manner.
As social corporate responsibility activities, business organisations in Africa should work in collaboration with governments to promote renewable energy across the continent and to explore the possibility of generating electricity through harnessing of water resources.
The private sector in the African continent should also invest in independent power plants (IPP) driven by solar, wind, biomass and hydro energy resources. The venture will not only be beneficial to them but will also go a long way to drive the continent’s vision for sustainable development.
Stakeholders in power and energy sectors should also gather to assess the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Africa. This is so because there is need for a continuous effort to improve and update renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation technologies through research and development activities.
Furthermore, stakeholders in power and energy sectors should also work hard in creating awareness on the potentials of renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation in the continent.
This will help experts in the area of science, research, power and energy to brainstorm and share new ideas on the importance of renewable energy to sustainable development and the total transformation of economies in African countries.
For sustainable development, energy supply from renewable sources and adoption of best practices in energy efficiency is advocated, not only in Africa, but worldwide. Fortunately, the continent is endowed with renewable energy sources of solar, wind, hydro, biomass, which are the most viable.
Therefore, if the continent harnesses its renewable energy sources, it will not only reduce sole dependency on depletable fossil fuels but it will also improve on security of energy supply.
Renewable energy’s availability and consumption rate is an economic index to measure the development of any nation, therefore, provision of efficient and reliable power and energy will result in long-lasting development and sustainable benefits, and in turn economic growth.