Breaking Down the New Waves of Energy in Developing World
By admin December 4, 2018

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Campaigning for using environmentally-friendly sources of energy – renewable energy – to replace destructive sources of energy has been a global phenomenon. Today, the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is being held in Portland, marking the second stage of the Paris Agreement. Whether in the high-profile multilateral dialogue or public discussion, energy issues always catch most of the attention.

The landscape of energy development in underdeveloped countries has been renovated in the past decades. Huge investments are piled into the developing world: Last week, African Development Bank has approved a senior loan of ZAR 3 billion to the 100 MW Redstone Concentrated Solar Power Project, which is expected to boost South Africa’s energy mix and hasten transition to renewable energy. On 8 November, the Bank signed a Letter of Interest for a US$100 million blended finance facility for Ethiopia’s Off-grid programme and a $500 million one for the Electricity Company of Ghana. Cutting-edge technologies have been applied to making innovation. In 2017, a non-profit, Energy Web Foundation (EWF), started developing an open source, scalable blockchain platform with the aim of creating a market standard for the energy industry to build upon and run their own blockchain-based solutions.

Although few countries rejected the significance of adopting new energy, things become complicated when we put the issue into a political economy framework, especially for the developing world. For one thing, R&D of energy is a huge investment for “financially-incapable” countries, which have many other topics with higher priorities than energy use. For another, it is usually these countries that bear the evil of carbon emission with reliance on the agriculture industry, while having limited access to clean and efficient energy, a key prerequisite of development projects. Communities need to have appliances, classrooms, equipment, irrigation systems, and so on, ready and available to be powered by electricity.

Nigeria, for instance, is facing a shortage of 173,000MW and this gives rise to large-scale imports of noisy and polluting power generating sets. The cost of purchasing electrical equipment, appliances or devices is still a barrier for many rural residents, whose incomes are very patchy. Ironically, the world’s 47 least developed countries and the 39 small island developing states are barely on the financial map because data on energy and emissions is sparse, unavailable or unreliable in these areas and the nature of energy infrastructure. A more fundamental issue is the knowledge attainment. When there are still people, even in the U.S, who prefer the convenience and are dubious about the seriousness of energy, it is rather hard to overcome weakness towards organically-riven upscaling.

Many institutions have realized that the cross-disciplinary approach is effective in resolving the dilemma. Researchers from Colorado State University are working with counterparts from the University of Rwanda to build an African Center of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development. On the demand side, they are partnering with villagers to identify problems and hurdles preventing them from making productive use of energy access, then pilot-testing and implementing solutions at larger scales. On the supply side, it builds out small-scale, pilot “solar plus storage” mini-grids, then scale those up.

Weighing over local contexts and involving communities and citizens in the decision-making process have been proved to be useful as well. In 2016, graduate students from the University of Calgary undertook energy and water audits of a sample of tourist hotels to help identify where energy efficiency could be improved to better manage growing energy demands from increasing land-based tourism pressures. They created the water-energy nexus for sustainable energy mix, thus raised the awareness of local businesses effectively. Furthermore, younger generations are the vectors of change. Climate science and energy education are to imbue important mindsets into their behaviors.


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African Development Bank approves a ZAR 3 billion loan to bolster renewable energy in South Africa

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