IRVINE, California — It is without question that the world must abandon most of its coal reserves to stay within global climate targets. Although some nations have decreased their coal consumption, the greatest reduction being the United States, many nations have done little to lower their coal consumption. Investing in new renewable energy technologies can ensure proper access to energy in remote areas while phasing out the use of fossil fuels.
Developing countries remain the top users in coal consumption.
Fossil fuel phase-out is the transition from fossil fuels through multiple means, such as transport electrification. The purpose is to reduce air pollution, mining tragedies and green house gas emissions by ending operation of fossil fuel power plants and the prevention of construction of such plants.
The 20 leaders of the world’s top industrialized nations and countries with developing economies have agreed to phase out fossil fuels. However, this leaves out developing countries with high poverty rates and large populations.
South Africa’s power sector is currently the eighth highest of global emitters of carbon dioxide. Around 77 percent of Africa’s energy demand comes directly from coal with no doubt that it will increase in the near future. There have been no plans to phase out the use of fossil fuels in South Africa since the construction of the world’s fourth largest coal-fired plant at Medupi.
Renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric and wind power are a great way of ensuring access to energy in developing nations. As the world takes into account the facts of climate change, the search for renewable energy sources is beginning to become an increasingly important aspect.
As the African economy grows, the demand for sustainable energy is also growing. An improvement in the economy of the developing world means that action can be taken towards providing a more sustainable way of living.
According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, renewable energy will make up almost half of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generation growth by the year 2040.
The potential for renewable energy in Africa will involve switching out the burning of fossil fuels for technologies that support hydro-, solar and wind power production.
Increased construction of such power plants will ensure access to energy in developing countries.
About three billion people in rural areas in Africa and Asia still depend on fossil fuels for cooking. Populations in poverty-stricken areas use these fuels to cook their food or produce heat in their homes. The efficiency of these fuels is particularly low. This means that large amounts of fuel are needed which causes huge production of carbon dioxide that is harmful towards human health.
Although some progress in this area has been made, with the growing rate of demand for energy, this progress will not come fast enough.
The conventional way of ensuring access to electricity is generally through production at large power plants and distribution through wide range transmission lines to populated areas. Moreover, ensuring access to rural areas requires extra extending transmission lines, which is uneconomical and inefficient.
In the past, generating power from small units using windmills or photovoltaic panels was considered expensive and would not be the best economical solution for developing countries.
However, the World Energy Future Conference held in Abu Dhabi has noted that technologies such as wind and solar power are no longer more expensive than the use of traditional fossil fuels.
Since then, the cost of solar power has been competing with traditional sources of energy. The reduction in cost of solar power provides an opportunity to call for the removal of fossil fuel subsidies.
The International Energy Agency predicated that solar costs would fall significantly in the upcoming years.
The demand for solar power is constantly rising, and the costs of solar power have been steadily decreasing. In fact, solar power is expected to extend to 80 percent of global markets within the next two years, which accounts for a total of 40 percent cut in cost from the original cost.
With current climate goals set in place for the future, fossil fuel-free plants are expected to be the main production for providing sustainable energy sources. The production of solar and wind power will no longer require extending transmission lines in rural areas to get access to electricity. With the lower costs of environmental friendly energy sources, developing countries can begin to look forward to reliable access to energy harnessed from nature.
– Sandy Phan