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Akshay Urja Diwas: Why renewable energy is important

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By Nithin Sridhar

In 2004, the government decided to observe 20th August as “Akshay Urja Diwas” or “Renewable Energy Day” in order to increase awareness about renewable energy. It was subsequently celebrated in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Today, on 20th August 2015, let us revisit the basics of renewable energy and dwell on its importance.

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What is renewable energy?

In the high-school, most of us would have studied that energy and energy sources can be broadly classified into renewable and non-renewable energy. The energy which is derived from sources and get exhausted over time is called as “non-renewable energy”. Example: power generated using coal as fuel.

On the other hand, the energy generated from sources that remains non-exhaustible and hence does not deplete with usage is called as “renewable energy”. Example: power generated using sun light. The sun does not deplete with usage, but the coal does. Renewable basically means “renewed” or “replenished”.

What are the sources and extent of the usage of renewable energy?

Sunlight, wind, and water-falls are the major sources of renewable energy. Other sources include tides, waves, and geo-thermal heat.

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According to Renewables 2014 report, in 2012 the contribution of renewable energy to global final energy consumption was around 19%. The division of renewable energy consumption was: Traditional biomass (9%), non-biomass heat energy (4.2%), Hydropower (3.8%) and power generated from wind, solar, geothermal etc. (2%).

In India, the total installed capacity of grid interactive renewable power as on 30.03.2014 was 31,692.18 MW. Out of that, Small Hydro Power contributed 3803.7 MW, Solar Power: 2631.96 MW, Wind Power: 21136.40 MW, Biomass Power: 4013.55 and power generated from waste contributed 106.58 MW.

Why renewable energy is so important?

The most important advantage of using renewable sources of energy is that they are renewable. Hence they can be used always without the fear of depletion. Further, increased dependence on renewables, would mean decreased dependence on exhaustible sources like coal and oil. This in-turn will not only result in preservation of natural-resources but also will decrease political and economic conflicts and wars that are fought over owning the exhaustible sources.

Another important advantage in using the renewable sources is the reduction of air and water pollution and optimal usage of naturally available resources with minimal side effects. The coal-based or gas-based thermal power plants are one of the major sources of pollution. By decreasing the dependency on coal, gas, etc. these pollutions can be restrained. This will in-turn help in reducing the release of greenhouse gases and hence help fight global warming and climate change.

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Use of renewable sources of energy will also prevent any damage to life and property through nuclear disasters as happened in Fukushima Nuclear Power plant in Japan. If the cost of producing electricity from renewable sources drops further, then they may become more widespread and in-turn help in stabilizing energy prices.
At an operational level, production and maintenance in a renewable energy plant are much easier than in, say, thermal or nuclear power plants. The risks associated with an on-site job is also lesser. Also, the renewable energy systems are more resilient and reliable energy systems.

Therefore, in spite of having some constraints in using renewable energy sources (for example, they are not available in the same degree throughout the year), attempts must be made to increase the installed capacity of renewable energy systems and slowly the energy reliance should be shifted from exhaustible and polluting sources like coal to non-exhaustible and non-polluting sources like sunlight.

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To Meet Increasing Demand Africa Needs to Quadruple Energy Investments

Africa's overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, accounting for half of the global increase over that period

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Africa, Energy, Investments
The number of people living in Africa's cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China's cities during the country's 20-year economic and energy boom. Pixabay

Africa is set to become increasingly influential in shaping global energy trends over the next two decades as it undergoes the largest process of urbanisation the world has ever seen, a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday.

‘Africa Energy Outlook 2019’, a special in-depth study, finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population.

Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities.

The number of people living in Africa’s cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China’s cities during the country’s 20-year economic and energy boom.

Africa, Energy, Investments
‘Africa Energy Outlook 2019’, a special in-depth study, finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population. Pixabay

Africa’s overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, accounting for half of the global increase over that period.

These profound changes will drive the continent’s economic growth, infrastructure development and, in turn, energy demand, which is projected to rise 60 per cent to around 1,320 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2040, based on current policies and plans.

The new report is the IEA’s most comprehensive and detailed work to date on energy across the African continent, with a particular emphasis on sub-Saharan Africa.

It includes detailed energy profiles of 11 countries that represent three-quarters of the region’s gross domestic product and energy demand, including Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana.

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The report makes clear that Africa’s energy future is not predetermined.

Current plans would leave 530 million people on the continent still without access to electricity in 2030, falling well short of universal access, a major development goal.

But with the right policies, it could reach that target while also becoming the first continent to develop its economy mainly through the use of modern energy sources.

Drawing on rich natural resources and advances in technology, the continent could by 2040 meet the energy demands of an economy four times larger than today’s with only 50 per cent more energy.

Africa, Energy, Investments
Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities. Pixabay

“Africa has a unique opportunity to pursue a much less carbon-intensive development path than many other parts of the world,” IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

“To achieve this, it has to take advantage of the huge potential that solar, wind, hydropower, natural gas and energy efficiency offer. For example, Africa has the richest solar resources on the planet, but has so far installed only 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV), which is less than one per cent of global capacity.”

If policy makers put a strong emphasis on clean energy technologies, solar Photovoltaic (PV) could become the continent’s largest electricity source in terms of installed capacity by 2040.

Natural gas, meanwhile, is likely to correspond well with Africa’s industrial growth drive and need for flexible electricity supply.

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Today, the share of gas in sub-Saharan Africa’s energy mix is the lowest of any region in the world.

But that could be about to change, especially considering the supplies Africa has at its disposal — it is home to more than 40 per cent of global gas discoveries so far this decade, notably in Egypt, Mozambique and Tanzania.

Africa’s natural resources aren’t limited to sunshine and other energy sources. It also possesses major reserves of minerals such as cobalt and platinum that are needed in fast-growing clean energy industries.

“Africa holds the key for global energy transitions, as it is the continent with the most important ingredients for producing critical technologies,” Birol said.

African countries are on the front line when it comes to climate change, meaning the continent’s energy infrastructure planning must be climate resilient.

“Even though Africa has produced only around two per cent of the world’s energy related CO2 emissions to date, its ecosystems already suffer disproportionately from the effects of a changing climate,” Birol added. (IANS)