Why Tanzania Must Invest in Renewable Energy

There are many reasons for Investing in renewable energy. Fossil fuel (common crude oil) energy resources are pollutants, limited, finite and therefore not sustainable.

Countries like Japan and others, for example, which depend on imported fuel, risk the effects of price fluctuations and natural disasters. On environmental concerns, utilization of fossil fuels produces carbon dioxide resulting in global warming and air pollution.On climate change, fossil fuels utilization and the resulting emissions contribute to the change in climate in the form of higher temperatures, high rainfall and floods.

On competitive energy prices, the renewable energy technology is currently a proven technology and therefore the prices compare favourably with the price of electricity produced from the fossil fuels.On job creation, the renewable energy is fast growing and therefore creates jobs in different countries unlike in the conventional energy sources which are very much centralised.

Already, the government has created a legal framework that is conducive for growth of renewable energy utilization, including the establishment of rural energy Agency and the rural energy Fund.The agency addresses the promotion of applied research, awareness raising, and promotion of renewable energy utilization in the country.

The government has also established appropriate fiscal and financial incentives for renewable energy development using the rural energy Fund. Import duties for most of the components of renewable energy systems were reduced from 25% to only 5%. exemption of Value Added Tax on renewable energy equipment and components has been made by the government.

The challenges facing the development of renewable energy in Tanzania include high costs of alternative energy vis-à- vis affordability by the majority poor, low technological capacity for sustainable deployment of renewable energy technologies, low awareness on alternative energy sources and renewable energy technologies; inadequate investments in renewable energy, the local banks and the inaccessibility of long term loans from micro-finance institutions. The finance institutions offer high interest rates for loans from commercial banks.

The other challenges include the inadequate resources for up-scaling adoption of renewable energy technologies in Tanzania as well as the low purchasing power of end-users in the country. The international community is also taking some measures to promote the use of renewable energy globally, following the advantages mentioned above.

The resolution 65/161 of the United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable energy for All. The resolution is one of such measures in recognizing that access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries. This is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development. The use renewable energy would help to reduce poverty and improve the conditions and standards of living for the majority of the world’s population.

The initiative was announced to the General Assembly in September 2011 and the aim is to coordinate partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society in order to meet three interlinked objectives by 2030. ensuring universal access to modern energy services; doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share in renewable energy worldwide.

The governments, businesses and civil society organizations (CSOs) will take important steps to meet these objectives, but ultimately, success can only be achieved through strong, coordinated, and sustained effort by all stakeholders. Stakeholders engagement with the Sustainable energy for All Initiative will take certain measures such as, developing country governments to build up national plans to advance energy access, and promote efficiency and renewable energy in ways that respond to national circumstances and priorities; regional and local governments, urban planners, and transportation authorities can design policies and investments to encourage greater use of public transit, promote bicycling and walking, or heighten the adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles by investing in refueling infrastructure.

Governments can also invest in retrofitting public buildings, which represent more than half of the total building stock and are projected to consume 40% of global energy by 2030. The donors and multilateral institutions engagement will be to provide technical assistance and policy guidance, to support knowledge and capacity building, to share best implementation practices and to make direct financial investments.

The multilateral bank, for example, could work to strengthen local financial institutions in order to stimulate investment in clean energy projects while the businesses engagements will make commitments to increase energy efficiency and use renewable energy in its operations and supply chains and large international corporations can take the lead in their respective sectors.

The Financial services companies can offer guidance to governments on policies to increase private-sector investment or partner with energy service companies that share the performance and/or the credit risk. The technology companies can undertake research and development to advance innovative technologies or adapt existing technologies to new circumstances while the civil society organizations engagements will use their flexibility, focused mission, and often times proximity to the energy poor to help communities implement sustainable energy initiatives, identifying appropriate and affordable technology, offer innovative mechanisms to lower up-front costs, and to develop business models and supply chains that attract investment.

There are also collaborative efforts to strengthen the existing initiatives of all partners, progress sustainable energy uptake, identify opportunities, and develop individual commitments and collaborative partnerships. The Sustainable energy for all initiative is a call to action to safeguard our collective future and therefore, all stakeholders must work together in order to achieve a broad-based transformation of the world’s energy systems over the next twenty years. even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil- fueled generators.

Roughly 80% of the cost is the machinery, with the balance being site preparation and installation. If wind generating systems are compared with fossil-fueled systems on a “life-cycle” cost basis (counting fuel and operating expenses for the life of the generator), however, wind costs are much more competitive with other generating technologies because there is no fuel to purchase and minimal operating expenses.

Environmental concerns Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to fossil fuel power plants, there is some concern over the noise produced by the rotor blades, aesthetic (visual) impacts, and birds and bats having been killed (avian/bat mortality) by flying into the rotors. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technological development or by properly sitting wind plants, according to US Department of energy.

This can also be further mitigated when selecting site or location for the installation of the rotors and Tanzania having the advantage of abundant open land and water areas, it maybe a viable option to consider. Solar energy Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP) or to split water and create hydrogen fuel using techniques of artificial photosynthesis. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam.

Photovoltaics convert light into electric current using the photoelectric effect. Tanzania is blessed with abundance sun source which is available throughout the 12 months cycle. In this case, Solar energy production in Tanzania with a strong emphasis on cost reduction and an abundant supply of high quality silicon, like the Nordic solar industry which is the leading energy source for Nordic grid parity, can be the main focus of the system design and operation. Solar energy is not available at night, making energy storage an important issue in order to provide the continuous availability of energy.

Both wind power and solar power are intermittent energy sources, meaning that all available output must be taken when it is available and either stored for when it can be used, or transported, over transmission lines, to where it can be used. Wind power and solar power tend to be somewhat complementary, as there tends to be more wind in the winter and more sun in the summer, but on days with no sun and no wind the difference needs to be made up in some manner.

The good news is that solar energy can be stored at high temperatures using molten salts. Salts are an effective storage medium because they are low- cost, have a high specific heat capacity and can deliver heat at temperatures compatible with conventional power systems. This approach is being used in countries like US, Canada and Spain with proven record of success, with capital costs and well as operating costs being relatively high.

By Salvatory Mushi. The author is a research officer with Commission for Science and Technology. http://allafrica.com/