Developing countries embracing green Electricity Production

The world’s developed economies continue to be racked with political debate over the sustained development of green energy policies, and the U.N. climate talks inch forward at ‘glacial pace’. Meanwhile, the developing countries are wholeheartedly embracing green electricity production, as evidenced by the rapidly closing investment gap. According to 2012 figures, whilst the developed economies invested 132 billion dollars in clean energy, the developing countries’ investment total has now reached 112 billion dollars.

Developing countries, it seems, find green energy installations much cheaper than continued reliance on costly fossil fuels. And prospects look brighter still when poorer countries factor in the additional benefits of new jobs, predictable energy costs, and a cleaner environment.

Growth of Solar Power Farms

Growth of Solar Power FarmsSuch strategies are being actively considered in Africa, where Kenya is the latest country to opt for the clean-energy route. With more than 500 million dollars already invested in solar projects, the Kenyan government has now earmarked nine suitable sites to be developed as solar farms, whose output by 2016 would be capable of meeting 50 per cent of Kenya’s forecast electricity needs. The cost of building these solar power installations is estimated to be 1.2 billion dollars and, with the design stage virtually complete, construction is due to start later this year. The development, scheduled for completion in two years, is to be jointly funded by government and private companies with the Kenyan administration liable for around 50 per cent of the outlay.

Water Power

Water PowerCurrent energy needs are mostly met through hydro-electric installations but, because this is a high-cost option, and also because Kenya is considered highly vulnerable to climate extremes, there is an urgent need to expand the photovoltaic sector. Commenting on behalf of the Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA), senior administrator Cliff Owiti said: ‘The costs related with hydroelectricity are very high, considering they are influenced by low water levels in major supply dams. With high investments in solar, we will witness almost no blackouts and power charges will reduce because electricity will be in high supply.’

Adding that the planned development is also part of Kenya’s environmental-protection strategy, he said: ‘We hope that when the entire project is completed by 2016, more than 50 per cent of Kenya’s energy production will consist of solar. Already we are witnessing solar investments in Kenya such as a factory that was opened here in 2011 that manufactures solar energy panels.’

Endorsing the scale of the anticipated reduction in future energy prices, University of Nairobi economics professor Germano Mwabu said: ‘When the project is complete and solar is in good use, electricity costs could go down by as much as 80 per cent.’

Wind Farms

Wind FarmsIn further plans, Kenya is also set to build a giant wind farm near Lake Turkana. This 365-turbine project, the Lake Turkana Wind Power consortium (LTWP), will be the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa. Scheduled to come online in 2015, the LTWP scheme is likely to create several thousand jobs and will be the biggest private investment in Kenya’s history.

Currently ranked 22nd in Africa by total electricity generated, and 46th in the world list of solar-energy generators, Kenya could jump to third place for solar-energy generation within four years, according to the latest projections from the government’s Energy Regulatory Commission.

Elsewhere in Africa, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn has also confirmed his country’s intention to shift to cleaner energy by announcing details of a planned 1,000 megawatt geothermal plant. This power project – potentially one of the world’s largest – will be located in Ethiopia’s Corbetti region and is intended to give East Africa the capacity to harness its vast energy resources. The plant will thus extend access to geothermal energy across Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana.

This Ethiopian scheme is part of president Obama’s 7-billion-dollar ‘Power Africa’ initiative which aims to at least double sub-Saharan Africa’s access to power. Construction will be handled by Reykjavik Geothermal, US-Icelandic geothermal development specialists, who have previously used their expertise to facilitate projects in 30 other countries. Reykjavik Geothermal’s Ethiopian investment is expected to reach 4 billion dollars with Ethiopia contracted to purchase the plant’s electricity output for 25 years.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Mark Taylor, up to 20 gigawatts of geothermal energy could potentially be harvested from East Africa’s Great Rift Valley alone, and thus we may see similar clean-energy schemes emerge elsewhere in Africa.

Commenting on the pressing need for such developments, Prime Minister Desalegn, who is already convinced that embracing green energy production is the best way forward for Ethiopia, and emphatically believes the strategy could help other ‘neighbouring countries as well’, said: ‘Aid is not a solution. Trade and investment is a solution,’ adding, ‘Africa needs to transform, and energy is at the centre of that transformation.’

C McDonald – I am actively involved in a number of ‘green’ projects and like to,  whenever I can, respect my local environment. From sourcing my electricity supply to what detergent I use I always try to think about the impact it could have.

Editorial Team
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