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Sep 14, 2011

Universal energy access in Africa requires political will

DRC|Engineering|Africa|CoAL|Gas|Hydropower|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|Resources|Solar|Technology|Africa|Democratic Republic Of Congo|DRC|Energy
DRC|Engineering|Africa|CoAL|Gas|Hydropower|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|Resources|Solar|Technology|Africa|Democratic Republic Of Congo|DRC|Energy
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Political will was a key enabler in ensuring access to energy for all Africans by 2030, United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) Energy Group Bureau for Development Policy director Veerle Vandeweerd said on Wednesday.

In light of social, political and economic challenges on the continent, one might question the ability of governments in Africa to achieve such a tall order as prescribed by the United Nations in 2010.

Speaking to Engineering News Online on the sidelines of a UNDP climate change conference, in Johannesburg, Vandeweerd said that Africa was “very capable” of achieving this “ambitious” target.

Africa had all the resources for wind, solar and hydropower development but the catalyst remained political enthusiasm and carbon financing.

However, it was not all about money and technology, Vandeweerd said. “Africa needs to create incentives, institutional structures and a regulatory framework that will attract investment and develop clean technology markets.”

“There is momentum in Africa, and there is ownership by African Ministers in dealing with this important issue.”

Any country that developed its economy on the back of a strategic green strategy, she believed, had the ability to become an economic powerhouse.

In Africa, Vandeweerd identified the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as one of the leading countries in strategically developing its green assets in line with economic development goals.

For example, the DRC has the world’s second-largest tropical forest, with an estimated 133-million hectares, including roughly 100-million hectares of dense rainforests in the Central basin.

According to Greenpeace, in the DRC, greenhouse-gas emissions as a result of deforestation is more than 50 times those of burning fossil fuels. However, the country is forging ahead and making progress with its national strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

She said that South Africa was not one of the world’s “fastest movers”, but indeed a “mover” compared with some of its African counterparts, describing the country’s strategy towards cleaner and greener technologies and its regulatory framework as “impressive.”

Vandeweerd said fossil fuels are becoming more expensive daily, and that, the world is at a point where the cost of producing energy from fossil fuels exceeded the cost of renewable energy.

“The cost of generating electricity from coal is on the rise as countries increasingly accept caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions.

“Fossil fuels are no longer the cheapest source of energy, as they long were, particularly for a big coal-producing country like South Africa, which sits at the source,” Vandeweerd explained.

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Creamer Media Senior Researcher and Deputy Editor Online
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