Most African countries have abundant renewable energy resources, including solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass, as well as the ability to manufacture the relatively labour-intensive systems that harness these. By developing such energy sources Tanzania can create energy portfolios that are less vulnerable to price rises. In many circumstances, these investments can be less expensive than fossil fuel energy systems.
In isolated rural areas, electricity grid extensions are often not economical. Offâ€grid renewable technologies provide a sustainable and costâ€effective alternative to the diesel generators that would be otherwise be deployed in such areas. Renewable technologies can also help to displace other unsustainable energy sources such as kerosene lamps and traditional biomass.
Letâ€™s take a quick look at what our neighbours doing to harness clean renewable energy:
- Kenya is the world leader in the number of solar power systems installed per capita (but not the number of watts added), with more than 30,000 small solar panels, each producing 12 to 30 watts, sold in Kenya annually. Kenya was the first African country to use geothermal power, and still has the largest installed capacity of geothermal power in Africa at 200 MW, with a potential of up to 10 GW. The country is developing what will become Africaâ€™s largest wind farm, the 300-MW Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is expected to be completed in 2019.
- The tiny country of Rwanda has East Africaâ€™s largest solar power farm producing 8.5-MW. It was commissioned in 2014 and accounts for 7% in its power energy mix.
- Ethiopia leads the region in wind power with its 120-MW Ashegoda wind farm located in the north of the country, which was built in 2013. Ethiopia is already producing another 51 MW from wind generated from two different sites in the south of the capital Addis Ababa.
- Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda have been investing heavily in these forms of clean energy and moving away traditional hydro-power sources as demand for power continues to surge and economies grow.
Compared to its neighbours, Tanzania has similar climate, including the same solar radiation, similar wind patterns and surveyed geothermal sites.
Tanzania has drafted and put in place policy to guide exploitation of clean renewable energy and also developed legislation that could see a major take-off of the sub-sector. And with funds being made available, Tanzania should see huge investments in the exploitation of natural resources for power production.
It is for these reasons that we believe that renewable energy investments in micro and mini grids including the use of solar PV could greatly increase both penetration and access to power for millions of people. We strongly believe that this is where governments, private sector and development partners should direct their energies and in order to facilitate this joint collaboration.