Village Rhapsody: Greater investment in renewable energy will combat climate change

Zimbabwe is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its dependence on rain-fed agriculture and its limited adaptive capacity.

Investment in renewable energy needs to triple by the end of the decade if the world hopes to effectively fight climate change and keep volatile energy markets under control, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

Renewables will account for more than two-thirds of investment in new power capacity this year, the IEA noted, yet a sizable gain in coal and oil use has caused the second-largest annual increase in climate change-causing CO2 emissions.

The IEA said a faster energy transition would better shield consumers in the future, because a commodity price shock would drive up costs for household’s 30% less in its most ambitious Net Zero Emissions by the 2050 (NZE) scenario versus its more conservative Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS).

Zimbabwe is highly vulnerable to climate change due to its dependence on rain-fed agriculture and its limited adaptive capacity.

Prolonged droughts have led to crop failures, food shortages, and water scarcity, affecting both rural and urban communities.

The majority of Zimbabwe's population still lacks access to reliable electricity.

 According to the World Bank, only around 40% of the population has access to electricity, with rural areas being the most underserved.

Expanding access to clean and affordable energy is crucial for improving living standards, powering essential services such as healthcare and education, and driving economic growth.

Zimbabwe has significant renewable energy potential, including solar, wind, hydro, and biomass resources.

The country enjoys high solar radiation levels and has vast areas suitable for wind power generation. Utilising these resources can diversify the energy mix, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy independence.

Investing in renewable energy can stimulate economic growth and create job opportunities.

The development of renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar farms and wind parks, requires skilled labour, attracting investment and generating employment opportunities in construction, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance sectors.

Transitioning to renewable energy sources is a crucial step in mitigating climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Zimbabwe can contribute to global efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures and meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

Embracing renewable energy aligns with international commitments and demonstrates commitment to sustainable development.

Renewable energy offers several benefits in combating climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and enhancing energy security.

The primary advantage of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, and biomass is that they produce significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel combustion releases carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. By transitioning to renewable energy, countries can reduce their carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

This reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is crucial for achieving the targets outlined in international agreements like the Paris Agreement.

Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy sources do not emit harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and mercury.

These pollutants contribute to air pollution, leading to various health issues such as respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and even premature deaths.

By adopting renewable energy, countries can improve air quality and create healthier environments for their populations.

Renewable energy diversifies the energy mix and reduces dependence on fossil fuel imports.

Fossil fuels are often sourced from geographically concentrated regions, making countries reliant on international markets and vulnerable to price fluctuations and supply disruptions.

In contrast, renewable energy sources are widely available and can be harnessed locally.

By developing a robust renewable energy infrastructure, countries can enhance their energy security, reduce reliance on external sources, and promote energy independence.

Unlike fossil fuels, which are finite and depleting resources, renewable energy sources are sustainable and virtually inexhaustible.

Sunlight, wind, water, and organic matter used for biomass energy are continuously available and can be harnessed without depleting natural resources.

This long-term availability ensures a stable and reliable energy supply, reducing concerns about resource scarcity and price volatility.

Transitioning to renewable energy sources presents several challenges that need to be addressed for a successful and sustainable transition.

High upfront investment: One of the primary challenges of renewable energy adoption is the initial capital required for infrastructure development and installations.

Solar panels, wind turbines, and other renewable energy technologies can be expensive. Governments can provide financial incentives such as tax credits, grants, and subsidies to encourage investment in renewable energy projects.

 These incentives can help offset the initial costs and make renewable energy more economically viable.

Grid integration costs: As renewable energy installations increase, integrating them into the existing energy grid can be expensive due to the need for infrastructure upgrades and grid modernization.

Governments and energy regulators can invest in upgrading the grid infrastructure to accommodate renewable energy sources.

This includes improving transmission networks, implementing energy storage systems, and developing smart grid technologies. Additionally, exploring decentralized energy systems can reduce the need for extensive grid upgrades.

Intermittent nature of renewable sources: Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are intermittent, dependent on weather conditions and time of day.

 This variability raises concerns about grid stability and reliability.

Energy storage technologies, such as advanced batteries, pumped hydro storage, and compressed air energy storage, can help store excess renewable energy during peak production periods and release it during low production periods. This enables a more consistent and reliable energy supply.

Grid flexibility and demand response: To accommodate the intermittent nature of renewable energy, it is crucial to have a flexible grid that can respond to changes in energy production and demand in real-time.

Implementing demand response programs and incentivizing flexible energy consumption can help align energy demand with renewable energy generation.

This involves encouraging consumers to shift their energy usage to periods of high renewable energy availability through pricing incentives or smart grid technologies.

Workforce transition: The shift to renewable energy may require retraining and re-skilling the existing workforce, as some job roles in the fossil fuel industry may become obsolete.

Governments, educational institutions, and industry stakeholders can collaborate to provide training programs and support the transition of workers from the fossil fuel sector to the renewable energy sector. This can ensure a just transition and minimize the impact on affected communities.

Policy and regulatory frameworks: Inconsistent or inadequate policies and regulations can hinder the transition to renewable energy by creating uncertainty for investors and developers.

Governments should establish clear and stable policies that support renewable energy deployment and provide long-term incentives for investment.

This includes setting renewable energy targets, streamlining permitting processes, and ensuring fair market access for renewable energy providers.

While commendable efforts have been made in licensing independent power producers, most of whom are into solar and hydro electricity generation, more still needs to be done to ensure they are on the ground and feeding into the national grid.

Considering that on-grid electricity is too expensive for many and doesn’t reach everyone, authorities have to create off-grid solutions that make electricity both accessible and affordable.

This includes providing solar equipment to low-income earners and those in remote areas, with the ability to pay for the investment in instalments.

  • Gary Gerald Mtombeni is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his own personal capacity. For feedback Email [email protected]/ call- +263778861608


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