Tanzania has every reason to embrace renewable sources which have many benefits to poor people, especially those in rural areas
We use and need energy every day in practically everything. Without energy, we cannot cultivate, travel, eat, wear and attend our everyday duties.
Country growth and development can be measured by looking on the amount of energy used.
African countries use less energy compared to Asian or European countries that is why Africa’s economy is reflected as less matured.
Energy sources are plentiful; there are those which are not sustainable like coal, oil, charcoal, firewood and gas. These sources usually cause environment degradation like pollution, loss of forest cover and biodiversity. Likewise, they tend to be more expensive overtime as they cannot be replenished.
On the other hand, sustainable energy is the one which puts more emphasis on availability and affordability, targeting advancement of people’s level of development and does not cause environmental degradation. Hydropower, biogas, solar power, wind, geothermal and sustainable charcoal are some of the examples of sustainable energy. Tanzania is blessed with numerous sources of sustainable energy.
Tanzania has every reason to embrace renewable sources which have many benefits to poor people, especially those in rural areas.
Statistics shows that in 2012, 20.7 per cent of Tanzanians were connected to the power grid. Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) reported the increase in power availability to 41 per cent in 2015. Despite all these successes, Tanzania is still facing the challenge of energy availability, especially cooking energy.
This problem is more prevalent in rural areas where there is a high dependence of biomass energy (firewood) for cooking. Household energy consumption takes about 72 per cent of all the energy which is produced in the country.
This means that, all efforts towards advancing and modernising the energy sector in Tanzania will affect household energy users more than any other sector. Sustainable energy is friendly to the enviroment. It also helps to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. It is also available in various forms across the country and therefore, it is easy to harness by using appropriate technology. Likewise, renewable energy does not run out, thus there are no worries about its long-term availability and its effects on price. When solar power project under JUMEME started, people in various villages were able to get electricity and opened up to many opportunities. Men and women were able to engage themselves in economic activities like small enterprises and manufacturing.
Cooking is normally in hands of women, and as statistics shows, 90 per cent of energy used in rural areas for cooking is sourced from firewood. This is because in rural areas, women have to walk long distances to collect firewood, thus putting them in a risk of attack from wild animals, or even sexual harassment and rape. Likewise, there are many health risks resulting from use of firewood, including indoor air pollution which lead to an array of respiratory diseases. The energy sector has a nexus with many other major sectors, that is, if we have better energy access, also other sectors will be better.
For example, availability of electric energy in the village will result into the creation of deep wells which use electric motors to pump water. This will help women to access water near their households.
Availability of clean water in the village will elevate hygiene level of people and thus reduce risk of water-borne diseases, thus help the health sector. Moreover, energy will enable men and women to engage in economic activities like irrigation, agriculture and food processing.
The government can contribute highly in ensuring sustainable energy is available especially in rural areas and there is equality in terms of its access and use. This would require a review of the existing policies and strategies to see if the most affected groups are given priority in policy implementation. Through partnership with the private sector, development partners and CSOs, the government can implement energy projects that will potentially elevate masses from poverty.
Attracting foreign investors to establish factories that will manufacture solar equipment domestically, prices of such products will go down and solar energy equipment like panels, lamps, batteries will become affordable.
Benefits of sustainable energy are wide and they will help people to overcome poverty and low standard of living through increase in productivity, income, and reduction of multiple health and social problems resulted from lack of energy.
Sustainable energy will contribute in mitigating climate change through reduction of carbon emissions resulting from use of coal, charcoal, firewood and diesel in energy production. It will also reduce forest degradation, resulting from improper harvesting to produce charcoal and firewood.
This is a call to all people and stakeholders to look at sustainable energy as a saviour who came to help country development and move people from darkness to light.
Mr Mikidadi works at the National Gender and Sustainable Energy Network.