| Sustainable energy News - No. 8 March 1995 |
Renewable Energy and the Combat Against Desertification
By Masse Lo, INforSE Western Africa I ENDA - Energie
In the middle of the last decade, the ecosystems of the dry zones of Africa were especially disturbed. The effects of the drought and desertification were a quick degradation of the resources of biomass and water. Among the problems for the populations in the most affected areas are provision of water and energy. These are key problems to solve in the strategy to combat desertification. The international convention to combat desertification includes, with good reasons, renewable energy as an important alternative in the recommendations for national programmes to combat desertification. For cooking needs, the African population depends primarily on biomass (firewood and plant residues), the consumption of which contributes to the acceleration of desertificalion. The equipment traditionally used to transform and use biomass (charcoal stacks and stoves) is not very efficient, and provides low yields. For rational use of firewood, dissemination programmes of improved stoves have been started in several countries as a major element of energy and resource preservation policies.
Some evaluations of these programs have shown weak results, especially in the rural areas, where firewood is not an important commercial good. On the other hand, the conditions for dissemination are more favourable in urban areas, where combustible materials (wood and charcoal) have a commercial value. To secure a reduction in the consumption of firewood, the dissemination of improved stoves should be complemented by usage of charcoal production technologies with higher performance.
To provide water, the most used technologies to extract the water (human- or animal-driven pumping) do not secure an appropriate service level. The dry zones have an important potential for solar energy and, in certain locations, good for wind energy. The widespread distribution of the rural communities and the recent development of the renewable energy technologies are arguments for their decentralized use. The policies to provide water should therefore give high priority to these energy sources.
Water pumping with energy from photovoltaic cells is specially adapted to dry and sunny regions. It is used, for example, in the programme "Mali aqua Viva", the regional solar programme of CILSS, etc. Wind energy can also contribute significantly to satisfy the water needs when the local conditions are favourable. Production of electricity from wind turbines has the same potential for water pumping as have photovoltaic cells.
In spite of the advantages of the renewable energy sources their use are limited by some major barriers: their relatively high costs and, in many countries, the absence of an operational framework for development, which must take into account the social, economical, and political situations.
In terms of massive support for renewable energy sources in the dry regions to combat desertification, it is necessary to rethink the energy policy in all countries affected by desertification. (translated and shortened by the editors)
Renewable Energy Technologies- Research for Dissemination and Implementation by Stephen Karakezi and Patience Turyareeba, AFPEPENIFWD, Nairobi, Kenya
The Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) Research for Dissemination and Implementation Project, started in January 1994,is an initiative of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN), and the Foundation for Woodstove Dissemination (FWD).
Through the examination of non technological barriers, the project aims at gaining a better understanding of the factors determining the success or failure of the RET's dissemination projects. Renewable energy in the form of biomass continues to account for the bulk of energy used in most Sub-Saharan African countries, representing about 73% of total energy.
Sub-Saharan Africa has substantial renewable energy resources, which include solar, hydro, and wind. Renewable energy will continue Lo meet household demand and, if properly harnessed, will play an important role in economic as well as industrial development.
Suitable renewable energy technologies have been developed and are mature enough to be applied on the African continent. Despite the recognition that renewables are an important source of energy for Sub-Saharan Africa, RETs have not attracted the requisite level of investment, nor has the desired level of dissemination been realized.
Although the national and international resources allocated to developing, adapting, and disseminating of RETs in the last two decades were substantive, the total amount is still insignificant (6%) when it is compared to resources invested in fossil fuels.
Although there has been little success, isolated cases in which substantial numbers of RETs were disseminated have been recorded in some Eastern and Southern African countries. For instance, typical examples include dissemination of the Kenyan ceramic jiko (KCJ), an improved charcoal stove in Kenya; solar water heaters (SWH) in Botswana; photovoltaics (PVs) in Kenya, Botswana, and Zimbabwe; ethanol in Zimbabwe; and biogas in Burundi.
Dissemination of RETs in Eastern and Southern Africa
Limited success of RET dissemination projects has been attributed to a combination of factors which include:
· high initial investment costs coupled with absence of supporting financial instruments,
· poor general information level,
· excessive emphasis on the household sector,
· inadequate development of local capacity.
These factors and many more have yet to be evaluated comprehensively. This analysis will enable key RET actors such as policy makers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and aid agencies to respond effectively to the pressing need for effective RET dissemination.
To address the above issues, the Renewable Energy Technologies Research for Dissemination and Implementation Project will:
· document the status of RET dissemination, compile a regional directory of experts and organizations involved in RET dissemination,
- conduct case studies on RET dissemination in six countries, and,
- explore non-technological factors that affect the dissemination of RETs in Eastern and Southern Africa.
More information on the project is available from Semida Silveira at SKI in Stockholm or from Patience Turyareeba at AFREPEN/FWD for address, see list of coordinators.