By Hazvinei Mwanaka
Accelerating universal access to renewable energy is essential to human and economic development and a catalyst to achieving all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa, experts have said.
Wellington Madumira, lobby and advocacy officer for ZERO regional environment organisation, said promoting energy access in Africa is not only beneficial to the continent but also critical to global growth and stability.
“For instance, efforts to reduce deforestation help to mitigate climate change globally; boosting food production through solar irrigation systems, food refrigeration and reductions in food wastage help improve food security globally.
“Mobilising global actors (governments, private sector, foundations and international financial institutions) creates a win- win situation for Africa and the world. Accelerating access to renewable energy on the continent is not only an investment in Africa’s development, but also a global public good,” he said.
He added that access to household energy is critical and there is need to deliver higher levels of power for productive uses across economies.
“For example, the continent’s small- scale farmers can be the engine of Africa’s structural transformation, if they are supported to increase their productivity and add value to their goods,” said Madumira.
Tendai Gracious Moyo, programmes manager for Let’s Green the Future, also added that with access to renewable energy women have a chance to be empowered.
“Renewable energy access is essential to economic development in Zimbabwe and Africa at large as it creates green jobs and other economic opportunities reducing poverty and hunger, improving public healt, enhancing education at the same time addressing climate change issues. So with access to renewable energy, women and youths have a chance to be empowered economically and socially,” she said.
She also said there was an urgent need for government to support energy access initiatives thereby making it easier for the majority to easily trade on renewable energy (RE) technologies.
“There is need for government to raise awareness on why it’s important to use RE as well as how to practice energy efficiency and engage schools to incorporate RE issues in the curriculum bringing out how it is an enabler for sustainable development in Zimbabwe,” she said. She however, added that government, private sector and civil society groups should work together in trying to accelerate energy access.
Sustainable Development Goal Number 7 ensures access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.
In September 2011, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative to achieve three inter-related global goals by 2030: ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
Universal access to clean energy services is an essential enabler of inclusive development, poverty reduction, enterprise development, achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and reduction of the gap between the rich and poor.
According to the EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme, Zimbabwe has a strong potential for electricity generation from hydro, solar energy and biomass resources.
One major advantage with the use of renewable energy is that as it is renewable it is therefore sustainable and so will never run out.
Renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators. Their fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the costs of operation.
Even more importantly, renewable energy produces little or no waste products such as carbon dioxide or other chemical pollutants, so has minimal impact on the environment.
Renewable energy projects can also bring economic benefits to many regional areas, as most projects are located away from large urban centres and suburbs of the capital cities. These economic benefits may be from the increased use of local services as well as tourism.
A wealth of alternative energy sources, from wind and solar energy to hydro-electricity and biomass fuel offer a way to power homes, vehicles or businesses without using fossil fuels. That means renewable energy sources can help reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions put into the air.