One-fourth of the world’s population has no electricity, according to research published in the SAPIENS journal. Of those who have no access to electricity worldwide, 90 percent are in rural areas of developing countries.
The developed countries have the infrastructure for non-renewable energy but developing countries may not have all created such infrastructure. It is for this reason that developing countries, particularly those in areas like Africa, have begun to leap-frog over developing countries to move from little energy infrastructure to the energy source of the world’s future – renewables. In fact, the Independent reported that 2016 was the first year that developing countries invested more money in renewable energy sources than the developed world.
In order to learn about the rapid deployment of renewable energy in developing countries, we spoke to Sanjeev Mansotra. Mansotra’s company creates and markets education management software. Their products include assessment, case management, operations management, safety, registration and curriculum software. Mansotra was born and raised in India.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, there are a few major reasons that developing countries are better off moving straight to renewables.
Industry and daily life that run on renewable energy are clean. They also alleviate global warming.
Having no dependence on foreign oil suppliers helps countries avoid a negative trade balance sheet. Also, it helps developing countries maintain their political independence, staying out of oil wars and embargoes. The latter also helps developing countries have energy independence.
Creating and maintaining renewables, like wind turbines, generates local employment opportunities on an ongoing basis. Foreign oil carries no such gain for the local populace.
Between 2009 and 2014, there was such a clamor for renewables, that the costs were driven substantially lower. Solar energy during that time decreased in cost by 80 percent. Wind power costs reduced by 60 percent.
The costs of petroleum have risen in recent years. Currently, there is uncertainty over oil embargoes and the threat of war between oil-producing nations.
According to Enel, the country in the world that has made the fifth-greatest improvement in renewables and their commitment to more renewable energy is Rwanda. As reported by The Guardian, in just a year, Rwanda completed a $24 million solar project that is a grid-connected, commercial solar array. The panels track the sun throughout the day and improved electrical generation in the country by 6 percent.
The Independent reported that Mauritania and Morocco came in the top five countries in the world in terms of investment in renewables in ratio to their GDPs. Mauritania is the world’ leader in investment in renewables in relation to their GDP. Morocco spent the equivalent of over $500 million in renewables just in the year 2015.
Euronews reports that Mauritania, the African country that did not gain its independence until 1960, had no infrastructure at the time it achieved freedom. Even in 2008, there were no renewables powering the country. That has all changed in the past decade. Today, there is a town named Chami that runs entirely on solar energy. Even more amazing is that the town was created in 2012 and now has 5,000 citizens.
Upon its completion this year, a 100 MW wind plant in the city of Boulenouar will become the largest West African wind farm. By the year 2016, Mauritania already received 38 percent of its energy from renewables. With the completion of a 50 MW solar plant in Nouakchott, they will have reached 50 percent of their energy being produced renewably. The latter plant will have 157,000 solar panels. So rapidly has the Mauritanian government deployed solar energy, that they are able to export surplus energy to neighboring Senegal and Mali.
The Morocco World News reported that Morocco already is supplying 35 percent of its country’s energy with renewables. Not long ago, they had a huge deficit in terms of import/export ratio because they were forced to import so much petroleum. One of their most unique solar farms is one the size of 3,500 football fields that produces 580 MW of clean energy. Currently, this is the world’s largest solar farm.
The Moroccan behemoth solar farm does not utilize solar panels. Instead, it has massive curved mirrors that heat fluids which are, in turn, sent to a power unit. There is also a cylinder filled with salt that melts and retains its heat for three more hours after sunset to deliver more power throughout the night.
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are all busily rolling out small-scale, renewable energy mini-grids in order to get power to isolated rural inhabitants.
AREF is an organization in the United Kingdom that is investing in smaller wind, geothermal, hydro, solar and biomass renewables in the Sub-Saharan region. The managing organization, Berkeley Energy, has already delivered 120 renewable projects. So far, this organization has invested around $10 to $30 million USD and has a fund of around $200 million.
Six projects have been completed, including a solar and biomass facility in Ghana, four hydroelectric facilities in Uganda, another hydroelectric project in Tanzania and a geothermal facility in Ethiopia.
According to Sanjeev Mansotra, Africa is becoming a key player in renewable energy development. More rural villages are coming on grid, and industry is getting clean, green power sources. This can only help the continent become more independent, vibrant and sustainable in the future. The African countries investing in renewables will have a far better chance of upward mobility and will likely remain safe and secure, despite the potential worldwide for oil embargoes, oil wars or spikes in the price of petroleum. Their clean power will support planetary health as well as the health of all of their inhabitants. Work created by the need to maintain these facilities will come from local labor, further benefiting each country’s economy.