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Opinions of Thursday, 26 September 2019

Columnist: waterforruralafrica.org

WRA lauds the AfDB’s green energy investment revolution in Africa


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Climate change has become a global enigma requiring radical measures, to undo the wrongs that have been inflicted on nature, since the dawn of the industrial revolution. It’s worth emphasizing that, actions needed to redress the present climatic puzzle cannot be conventional; Great sacrifices must be made from across every sector of life and in every arena if we hope to make a change sooner.

As it stands now, global climatic trends show signs of great threat to places, species and people’s livelihoods. Without serious policies from government bodies, the civil societies, and engagement with business institutions to reduce carbon emissions through adaptation to new energies and new ways of life, very little would be achieved. As a matter of fact, Water for Rural Africa commends the African Development Bank’s Green Energy Investment for the Sahel Region.

An overwhelming scientific consensus insists that, climate change is due predominantly to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The world’s over dependence on fossil fuel for energy has become a drain on our expedition to protect the climate, and no government is oblivious of the use of fossil fuel’s devastating impact especially when used as a source for generating electrical energy.

In the past, very little was done to tackle the threatening tendency however, in 2016, the world embarked on a journey that many have now termed, the “sane lane of Europe vision.” More than a hundred and eighty nations signed the Paris Agreement and have become members to the party; an accord that aims for member nations to keep increasing global average temperature below 2 °C, above pre-industrial levels, while limiting the increase to 1.5 °C.

It is hoped that, these strides would reduce in a more substantial manner, the negative bearing on global warming and climate change; and all the risks that have come with it. Unfortunately, just two years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, the US decided to withdraw from it; a move activists have noted to be one of Donald Trump’s greatest slipups. The president of America has set the platform and pattern through which the United States’ government would withdraw from the Paris Agreement by 2020, and that’s no good news for the world, considering the importance and urgency of the times. Nevertheless, France and some other European nations are making great efforts towards a green world:

In July 2017, France endorsed a plan to ban petroleum vehicles by 2040 in line with the Paris Agreement. In addition, France will no longer use coal to produce electricity after 2022. In a similar vein, Norway and Netherlands would ban petrol and diesel powered cars by 2025 and 2030 respectively. The Netherlands plans to cut down her greenhouse gas emissions to about 95 percent by 2050.

In October 2018, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched the International Solar Alliance and applauded the goal of mobilizing about $1 trillion dollars towards the deployment of some 1,000 GW of solar energy by 2030. He added that, what the world is witnessing is a global renewable energy revolution. In 2017, Green energy accounted for some 70 percent of net additions to global power capacity and solar energy is at the center of this revolution. Good and ambitious as these initiatives and the forecast linked to them may sound, the million dollar question is, what is Africa doing concurrently to meet up to the Paris Agreement’s goals?

Well, Africa has always been left behind and all efforts made so far, can be considered as a tip of the iceberg, when the full picture of the problem in question is closely zoomed. Recently however, the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) embarked on an ambitious initiative titled “Desert to Power (DtP). According to prospects, the project is expected to stretch across the Sahel region; tapping into the area’s abundant solar resource. The Initiative which targets to develop and deliver 10 GW of solar energy by 2025, and to supply 250 million people with green electricity, is unquestionably a laudable investment and thus, requires massive support and commendations.

Some reports have it that, 64% of the Sahel’s population, covering Senegal, Nigeria, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea, lives without electricity. The DtP was submitted in September 2018 with the Yeleen Rural Electrification Project, involving the production of off-grid energy in Burkina Faso. The move is expected to harness solar energy to deliver access to more than 900,000 people in rural areas; nearly 5% of the country’s population.

Water for Rural Africa (WRA) has enormous craving to ensuring that best practices are adhered, in safeguarding the environment. We aspire to actively be involved in changing the lives of all rural folks in Africa by putting in place good drinking water schemes. We are therefore enthused by the AfDB’s DtP initiative. The venture would go a long way in facilitating our various water projects in some of these rural areas. WRA congratulates AfDB for the audacious gait. Up until the recent initiative, it has been nothing but a paradox to have one of the sunniest regions (Sahel) in the world, deprived of sufficient electricity when everyone knows that, lack of energy remains a noteworthy obstruction to Africa’s pursuit of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

The continent of Africa is certainly going to derive colossal benefits from this initiative. The resultant paybacks may impact the Environment, the Health sector, the Economies of various states, and social life across the various countries, although there’s no naysaying that, we would as well confront some limitations before the kick off of the grand-ambition and some eventualities within the frame work of the project’s execution and conclusive phases.

Environment and Health

Human activity is overloading our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. This enterprise (DtP) will contribute to the reduction in the emissions of these harmful gases, which will advance climate restoration and as a result, save ecosystems and livelihoods. Improved climate is tantamount to favorable weather conditions and good patterns of rainfall. This could go a long way in reducing the severe drought situations experienced in the Sahel region and thus, facilitating the fulfilment of the United Nation’s SDG number thirteen; the call on Climate Action.

Healthy environment matches good health. It is no secret that, air and water pollutions from fossil fuels contribute to several cancer cases, breathing problems, heart attacks, and other severe health issues. Switching fossil fuels with green energy sources helps to reduce harmful emissions and cleans up air and water qualities, which may greatly improve on public health and may even lower overall healthcare costs. In addition, solar energy requires fundamentally no water to function; consequently it does not pollute water resources nor does it strain supplies by competing with agriculture, drinking water, or other important water needs.

Economic

Not only does green energy make climate-sense, but also economic-sense. According to Magdalena J. Seol, a presentative of the AfDB’s Desert to Power Initiative, Energy is the foundation of human living and our entire system depends on it. She added that, at the moment, providing and securing sustainable energy is the mainstay of Africa’s economic growth.

The DtP enterprise will contribute to the creation of new jobs and the growth of the private sector. The ripple effects will certainly be felt on other related industries, and even in sectors that are unconnected to the green energy industry. For example, they could be a rise in incomes across households and a boom in SME and other businesses across the region. This would greatly contribute to the economic fortunes of not only the region but the entire continent and even the globe as well.

According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), green energy production created an estimated 7.7 million new jobs around the world in 2014. IRENA predicts that the figures could soar to more than 16 million jobs by 2030. The Sahel region and all Africa are certainly part of that statistics.

Additionally, the green energy technology has had a positive impact on water provision for rural Africa. The use of solar powered pumps in areas without electricity is the new way to mitigating the menace of water scarcity in Africa. Currently in Ghana, the Ministry of Special Development Initiative (MSDI) is undertaking an audacious 1000 Community-Based Mechanised Solar Powered Borehole Water Systems in the country. This and many other ventures have occasioned huge boosts and positive outlooks for players in the Solar-powered pump industry.

According to some separate studies done by Rapid Network and One-digi-click, the Solar-powered Pump market was valued, 820 and 822 Million US$ in 2018 and is projected to reach 1890 and 1892 Million US$ respectively by 2025, at a CAGR of 11.0%, during the forecast period. In this same readings, 2018 was noted for being the base year, and 2019 to 2025, as the forecast period, to estimate the market size for Solar-powered Pump.

Social

Social perspectives are important considerations for renewable energy technologies. While non-renewable fossil fuels have often been a source of political controversy, expansion of renewable energy resources would help in the creation of local jobs which will build strong foundation for domestic stability and growth.

The cost of green energy is low when compared to non-renewable energy. This will make it more affordable for low income earners in the region and consequently, have positive impact on education, health and reduction in poverty. It may therefore increase avenues for entertainment, leisure and social interactions.

Challenges

Despite the many benefits and opportunities that will be derived from this excellent enterprise, there are seemingly conspicuous challenges that could hinder its successful implementation.

Political will and Regulations; Lack of political will and absence of policies and regulations backing the development of renewable energy technologies in many of these nations can hamper the adoption of these technologies. Due to the nature of renewable energy structures, renewable energy market needs clear policies and legal procedures to increase the interest of investors. Per reports, enabling policies produce stable and expected investment environments, which help to overcome barriers and ensure predictable project revenue streams. Political instability in some of the countries in the Sahel region can also serve as impediments to the success of the enterprise.

Socio-cultural barriers: During its initial installation or introduction in many African homes few years ago, some of the people who used the solar panels connected to a car battery made complains of its limitations and, this could provoke unwillingness on the part of some people, to gladly accept renewable energy ventures, except maybe in places were there have never been electricity at all. Additionally, lack of knowledge and awareness of renewable energy upgraded technologies and systems amongst rural communities is another challenge encountered in renewable energy development. According to some reports, majority of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are uneducated and, may not appreciate the concept appropriately.

Technical; Technical barriers to renewable energy development include inadequate technology and lack of infrastructures necessary to support the technologies. This is particularly true in cases where core renewable energy technologies are not provided in many places, or are not well sustained in some areas in developing countries. However, green energy is a praiseworthy venture that has definitely come to stay. Africa must help in healing the world together with the rest of the global community by opening widely her door for the DtP initiative.

In conclusion, WRA would like to encourage and urge the AfDB and other development institutions to consider roping in other African nations that are equally battling with energy deficiency so that, the continent would equitably experience poverty reduction and economic manumission as soon as possible.

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