The past decade has seen a lot of interest in the solar power, also known as photovoltaic (PV) technology trending. Demand has increased due to rising issues of global warming and the cost of generating power through ways that are traditional (hydro power and coal power stations). Increasing the proportion of energy produced by solar power is widely broadcasted as a key component in the worldwide drive to slow down or even reverse global warming and reduce our carbon footprint.
Most African countries have joined bandwagon of global-warming conscious economies. South Africa is one of the countries at the forefront pioneering the climate change initiative. As a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) economies, South Africa has ushered the African-initiative on global warming and the importance of using renewable sources of energy. Since 2012, Johannesburg raised more than R800million for the solar water heater programme, South of the City, which assumes 110 000 RDP houses receiving sun-powered geysers by 2015. Next to the population, that is just a drop in the ocean, but it is a drop in the right direction.
According to the executive director of Greenpeace Africa, “Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability.” This topic was discussed at the Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo public dialogue entitled ‘The nature and opportunities of preserving urban green spaces in Africa’, and quoted from a 2005 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report titled Africa – up in smoke?. If we, and the government can see the dire situation, it calls for people to work with government, or campaign for a faster and better response to this situation before it gets worse; and we pay more for aid from other continents.
The image below depicts the environmental issues that the continent will face in the future, and tries to find solutions to combat this through sustainable ways.
As the issue of sustainable sources of energy becomes at hot topic at events like COP21, a sustainable innovation forum, practical measures need to be taken into consideration by African governments. They need to understand the data and the consequences of global warming, the assumption is that there is understanding and knowledge but there are deeper issues that stop African governments from moving forward with these kinds of initiatives. The biggest issue is money, how can they generate money from sustainable energy sources and how will they maintaining the infrastructure if they are not making money? It is a fact, money is an important factor in the functioning of any economy and Africa is in need of constant monetary supply.
Here is how African governments can make money from solar power:
- Government can ensure than upon installation of the solar infrastructure, a maintenance subscription fee can be charged per household. This can be paid monthly or yearly. This again gives obligation to the government to ensure that they have technicians coming out yearly to maintain the infrastructure. A win for both government and people.
- Accreditation, government can ensure that suppliers and fitters of solar infrastructure or renewable infrastructure, are accredited by one body that is managed by government. This can work on a yearly renewable basis to remain complaint. This will ensure that government can keep track of the number of companies offering services and the numbers of households that join the renewable grid. Government can ensure quality and safety of all infrastructure.
- Training, government can be responsible for all training facilities or institutions that will educate service providers and maybe civilians that need to understand renewable energy.
- In the process, jobs are created and can assist in reducing a certain percentage of unemployment, thus reducing the number of individuals/households on grant assistance. On the brighter side, government still gets to make money!
A dilemma is being faced by the continent and it needs government to act fast, if not, private sector will do what it does best, capitalize on opportunities as they come – then leave the bread crumbs to government.
By Ednah Nzombe