Volume 4, Issue 3, July-December 2015
- Chair's Foreword
- Renewable Energy in Africa
- Earth Science Book Review
- Earth Science Events
- References and Selected reading
The Society has networked with African scientists and engineers with the intention to encourage projects in Africa that contribute towards African technological and infrastructural development, through enhancing skills and knowledge, particularly, of African youth, on whom the continent's future will depend. For instance, the chair of SAES has been in contact with research scientist Suleiman Babamanu of NASENI - Nigerian Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, who has since established a national project to expose African school children in Nigeria (under the auspices of NASENI ) to renewable energy technology (in particular solar) and to raise their awareness about the science of climate change.
Also SAES has continued to publish its regular newsletter. In this issue we also assess the potential for Africa’s development of renewable energy technologies which, on first glance, would appear to be vast. SAES continues the struggle to realise this huge untapped potential for African energy development, by raising awareness and promoting the vision of a sustainable, independent and secure African energy future. According to a recent report, Africa is currently achieving only 1% of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) in its total energy usage. African energy is made up of 1% renewable energy (excluding hydropower), 16% hydropower, 81% oil, coal and gas, 2 % nuclear. So there is great potential to improve renewables other than hydropower, although hydropower is under utilised also. So if we include hydropower, we can substantially improve the share of African energy that is renewable.
All energy sources on earth ultimately originate from the sun. Even hydropower is only made possible by water deposited at high altitudes as rainfall resulting from the evaporation over oceans, rivers and streams.
Renewable energies are important for Africa to implement, not only because of the looming spectre of climate change which threatens future security, but also because renewable energies offer to
a) Vitalise local economies by opening up opportunities for the establishment of new businesses and industries
b) Create new opportunities for long term employment of local people.
c) Improve public health
In effect adoption of renewables offers Africa a developmental quantum leap in energy production that develops the latest renewable energy technologies, without having to suffer the problems of a fossil fuel phase experienced by industrialised nations.
Although under-employed, solar and wind are the fastest growing renewable energy technologies on the African continent. The point has been made before in relation to investment, that the cost of initial investment in solar, like other renewables is high. But this investment is followed by a period of low maintenance and operational costs.
Another important investment decision Africans must make in relation to solar, is when to invest in the establishment of solar energy power plants, which require tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to fund; and when to invest in solar panel manufacturing plants, which require only units of millions to fund - but lead to job creation, and a mushrooming in the number of off-grid solar installations made. A strategy involving both types of investment is needed.
Five notable examples of solar panel manufacturing in Africa, evince some progress on a continental basis to a level of self sufficiency in regard to the production of African solar energy, with solar panel manufacturing plants being currently established in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa (2).
There are also a growing number of large scale power plants emerging on the continent including, for instance the 15 Megawatt (MW) solar energy plant at Ouarzazate in Mauritania, which serves 10% of the country's needs. There is also the case of South Africa, which in trying to lessen its dependence on coal, has established the 96 MW Jasper plant in the Northern Cape. Ghana plans to establish a large scale solar power plant at Nzema, which will be the largest on the continent supplying 155 MW of power (3).
- lack of capacity to manufacture rudimentary parts for turbines
- lack of capacity to design and develop small schemes for remote regions
- lack of access to appropriate technology to facilitate, mini-, micro- and pico-hydropower projects.
There is also evidence of success in developing small scale community based hydropower schemes in Zimbabwe (9, 10 ) and Kenya (11, 12 ). Small or micro-hydropower schemes require low cost investment and the benefits are seen in the short term. For these and other reasons, their use should be embedded in any national development plan.
Wave and Wind Resources
Africa has a very large coastline, which avails the continent of substantial wind and wave energy resources. Other areas in Africa where wind resources are found to be abundant include the Horn of Africa, eastern Kenya, parts of West and Central Africa bordering on the Sahara and parts of Southern Africa. Somalia has the highest onshore potential for wind energy, followed by Sudan, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt Madagascar and Kenya (13).
Solar and Clean Water Provision
It turns out that adopting more use of solar can increase Africa's clean water supply via devices such as solar water pumps and water purifiers. The purifier works through evaporation and UV radiation to kill the pathogens in the water. Solar disinfection (SODIS) is currently used in Kenya and Uganda to help rid drinking water of pathogens (14).
The increase in clean water provision due to solar in turn impacts on national health. Such devices may have a high initial installation cost, but have low maintenance and low operational costs thereafter, and have other benefits including improvement of public health.
The renewable energy resources available to Africa are seen to be potentially vast. However, this potential is not easily realisable without the financial support to make that happen. There are various initiatives aimed at financial support of African renewable energy such as AREI (African Renewable Energy Initiative), which has raised $200 million to support small and medium scale initiatives in sub Saharan Africa. AREI aims to produce 300 Giga Watts of power from renewables for Africa by 2030. Most of this production will be solar and wind energy (15).
There are various other initiatives which are not substantially covered here and which need closer examination. Some are a part of carbon trade-offs (CDM - clean development mechanisms designed under the Kyoto Protocol to promote investment in projects that reduce or sequester emissions of green house gases in developing nations) whereby European corporations ameliorate (ostensibly) their negative impact on climate change, due to their use of African oil by offering subsidies in support of initiatives in Africa that generate renewable energy. Some run the risk of creating a dependence on outside aid from particular quarters, e.g. Europe, if a healthy diversity of support options is not available.
An obvious fundamental objection to the funding arising from carbon exchange, is that carbon trading can in itself be viewed with a certain healthy dose of suspicion that it is merely a mechanism that lets western corporations off the hook in terms of making direct cuts to their Co2 emissions. Also this might be seen as too much of a piecemeal way to fund a step that requires strategic investment, not investment as and when western corporations seek to make carbon trade-offs.
An alternative initiative which, although private sector based, emphasizes sustainable development finance is SEFA, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa, which is administered by the African Development Bank. This fund supports small and medium scale renewable energy projects in Africa underpinned by the belief that renewable energy can improve employment of local people (16). The difference made here between sustainable development project finance as compared with other finance is that the host nation is more likely to enjoy the so called "multiplier effects" of such investment; whereas with a non-sustainable development approach to finance, the foreign investors and their home nation typically are the ones to enjoy these "multiplier effects" as well as any direct profits. These multiplier effects include growth in trade as well as in employment resulting from the investment.
The Planet Remade: How Geo-engineering could change the world
Morton seems pessimistic about current efforts: “Any plausible cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions made today would have more or less no effect until the mid-century. By that time the costs of inaction might be horribly plain…”.
Perhaps Morton has a valid point on the slowness of action on climate change and there are valid concerns about the efficacy of carbon trading in actually reducing greenhouse emissions, but one must also take into account the possibility that geo-engineering could go wrong.
One method proposed to reverse climate change would be to spray sulphur aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation away from the earth. However, unintended side effects could include a 30% decrease in tropical rainfall which would kill off rainforests and exacerbate the situation. (see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25639343 ).
Morton appears to proffer that even with the negative unintended consequences of geo-engineering, they will not make us as badly off as on a planet with a rise in temperature of more than 2 degrees centigrade. But one must wonder how that statement can be made with any confidence, since we have no idea of the actual consequences of geo-engineering; only those consequences which we might speculate.
Of course, the reader is left, despite these concerns and despite the controversy of the subject matter, to approach the book with an open mind.
In this international conference on applied geology and the environment (iCAGE2016), we are going to deal with the Earth sciences, including the pressing naturally occurring problems and preservation of its natural resources. Our expectations are to bring together the experts and young researchers from all over the world to discuss the recent developments in fundamental and applied geology and to promote exchange of ideas in various applications of natural resources.
- Renewable energy still has a long way to go in order to replace fossil fuels and become a primary source of energy consumption but things have been lately definitely moving in the right direction.
- It would significantly decrease the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and this would have positive environmental impact for our entire planet.
- NORPLAN Study, Cost Competitiveness of Rural Electrification Solutions, Norwegian Agency for Cooperative Development (NORAD), 2012. http://norplan.com/files/2013/NORPLAN-Study-full-article-3-.pdf
- "Bright Sun, Bright Future: Can Africa Unlock its Solar Potential?", http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/29/business/bright-sun-bright-future-africa/index.html
- Geothermal Potential in Africa. http://www.esi-africa.com/geothermal-energy-in-kenya-alone-there-is-a-potential-of-approximately-10-000-mw-of-electric-power/
- Water for Agriculture and Energy in Africa: Hydro-power Assessment of Africa, December 2008. http://www.sirtewaterandenergy.org/docs/2009/Sirte_2008_BAK_3.pdf
- Klunne, W.J.,"Small Hydro-power Development in Africa, ESI Africa, Issue 2, 2007.
NORPLAN Study, Ibid.
Think Africa, Zimbabwe: Bringing Hydropower to the People, May 2012. http://thinkafricapress.com/zimbabwe/micro-hydropower-eastern-highlands-pungwe-river
Klunne, W.J.,"Micro-hydropower in Rural Africa, Challenge, Spring 2011, http://energy4africa.net/Klunne/publications/challenge_springs2011_hydropower.pdf
Klunne, W.J.,"Small Hydro-power Development in Africa, ibid.
Water for Agriculture and Energy in Africa: Hydro-power Assessment of Africa, ibid.
- "Why are Wind Farm Developers Loving Africa?", http://afkinsider.com/88417/wind-farm-developers-loving-africa/#sthash.wSZ7Om7X.dpuf
- http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/african-renewable-energy-fund-raises-200-million 100021197/#ixzz3ubDjpfV8
- Jordan, et al (eds), Land & Power: Sustainable agriculture and African Americans - A collection of essays from the 2007 Black environmental thought conference. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), 2007.
- Gupta, S.K., Modern Hydrology and Sustainable Water Development, Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, 2011.
- A link on “Groundwater and Rural Water Supply in Africa”: http://www.iah.org/downloads/occpub/IAH_ruralwater.pdf
- Link to Journal of African Earth Sciences: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-african-earth-sciences/