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Tackling climate change through renewable energy technologies

2nd December 2011
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REPOA Executive Director, Samuel Wangwe

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Wednesday unveiled its Technology and Innovation Report 2011.

REPOA Executive Director, Samuel Wangwe, who officiated at the event stressed the importance of development of renewable energy technologies (RETs) as a way of tackling the dual challenges of climate change and energy poverty as our Staff Writer reports:

The need to focus on how renewable energy technologies ( RETS) could complement conventional energy sources in developing countries to ensure that the lack of electricity, which is a major bottleneck to industrial could be overcome was the cornerstone of the 151-page report unveiled yesterday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Unveiling the report yesterday in Tanzania on behalf of the world body, the REPOA Executive Director, Samuel Wangwe said the renewable energy technologies offer a new hope for developing countries as it assures quality of life while alleviating global energy poverty.

According to estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA), over 20 percent of the global population or approximately 1.4 billion people had no access to electricity last year. With this figure, South Asia has the largest proportion of people without access to electricity accounting to 42 percent of the world’s total.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the most underserved region with 69.5 percent of the region’s population having no access to electricity at all, and only 14 percent of the rural population having access.

The UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2011 argues that RETs, which can be mixed with conventional energy sources, could provide countries with varied energy options to suit their specific needs and conditions.

The report shows that RETs such as solor pums, solor PV installations, small wind, mini-hydro and biomass already provide cost-effective energy solutions that bring significant benefits to local communities.

Of the 1.4 billion people not connected to electricity grids globally, approximately 85 percent live in rural areas. Where RETs can be important means of energy supply through semi-grid and non-grid solutions.

The report says the supply of energy by RETs globally has risen rapidly over the past decade, especially since 2003 when hydro-carbon prices began surging. In 2009 developing countries accounted for about half of all electric power-generating capacity using RETs.

The electricity generating capacity from RETs excluding large-scale hydropower in developing countries has grown rapidly, almost doubling in five years from 160 GW in 2004 to 305 GW in 2009.

The report stresses the need to focus on how RETs can complement covetional energy sources in developing countries to ensure that the lack of electricity which is a major bottleneck to individual development can be overcome.

“Not only could RETs potentially help reduce energy poverty, they could reduce social inequalities through the creation of new jobs in their application,” it said.

It said for example that Germany created 40,000 new jobs in the renewable sector (particularly for electricity) between 1990 and 2002 and is projected to increase to 250,000 to 350,000 by 2050.

It has also been established that if South Africa were to use RETs in generating just 15 percent of its total electricity by 2020, a total of 36,400 new jobs could be created without reducing employment in the coal-based electricity sectors.

For all developing countries, RETs real opportunities for reducing energy poverty and the right policies could influence the extent of benefits that could be derived from the use, adaptation and dissemination of RETs, according to the report.

It suggested that developing countries will need to strengthen their innovation systems through policy frameworks that foster capacity and linkages to enable wider RET dissemination and to promote a greater greener catch-up process.

The report suggests that continuous technological improvements in RETs that are making more cost-effective, as well as growing global investments in RETs and their abundant availability worldwide, are all reasons why RETs will continue to expand, complementing conventional energy sources in the short and medium term and eventually completely replacing conventional energy in the long term.

The report notes that that greater technological capabilities are required in developing countries, not only use RETs more widely, but also to create minor technological improvements of the kind that can render RETs much cheaper and applicable in local contexts.

The report proposes that developing countries should promote rapid development and deployment of RETs of the kind that promote large energy savings through improved energy efficiency. Such a shift would represent more of energy revolution that the current evolution and will be possible through government support and policy action.

Winding up, Prof. Samuel Wangwe appealed to Tanzania government to establish Research and Development centres for RETs while also making sure that training centres for RETs were in place.

He also called for international community to aid the RETs initiatives in developing countries while putting RETs issues high in the agenda during international meetings.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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