Deepen renewable energy alternatives to power rural economies

It is generally acknowledged that fossil fuel-based power generation is the most expensive form of energy globally. This notwithstanding, it still remains the largest source of electricity generation in Africa.

Africa’s stunted development can be attributed in part to its energy deficit, whereby an estimated 70 percent of the population in Africa south of the Sahara are without reliable access to electricity. In the absence of reliable electricity delivery, the manufacturing sector suffers tremendously.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the continent requires in the region of US$30billion in investments alone to achieve universal electricity by 2030. Looking at the huge amount required for the investment, alternative options need to be explored to enable the scaling-up of electricity, particularly in the rural areas which currently lack access.

In the mix, also, is concern for sustainable development which has now become a global target in the form of the United Nations’ SDGs, and with this concern is controlling carbon emissions. In this regard, renewable energy is the most recognised alternative that presents a unique opportunity for the continent.

Regional bodies like ECOWAS have recognised this new development paradigm and are equally exploring the opportunities open to them. In this regard, ECOWAS is pursuing and developing rural renewable energy agendas with ECREEE – the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency  -as the most prominent.

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ECREEE has formed strategic pacts with a number of international organisations  – like FAO and UNIDO, with the economic community targetting about 20 percent for the renewables makeup of energy by 2030. SADC and EAC are similarly pursuing a similar agenda, and shows that Africa is minded to sustainably pursue its development agenda.

Solar remains our best bet, as Africa has an unlimited source of energy from the sun’s rays, which are in limitless supply. Ghana has its own renewable energy target – which is to have 10 percent of the energy mix in renewables by 2020; but we have woefully underachieved as the deadline approaches, and the energy mix is nowhere near even 5 percent of the projected 10 percent.

Hope remains alive, though, since around 50 project developers and engineering services companies in the country have benefitted from German development assistance – particularly in the operation of solar photovoltaic projects. The training was aimed at supporting local enterprises to develop high quality solar PV and storage projects.

Germany is the European leader when it comes to the deployment of renewable energy projects, even though it is located in the temperate zone, and can be of immense benefit in our quest to deploy renewable energy sources as an alternative to fossil fuels.

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