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How Can Renewable Energy Help Developing Countries?

Today, over one billion people experience energy poverty, which is the lack of access to a reliable energy source and energy service. Because economic development depends on energy generation and utilization, these people typically reside within developing countries.

For many years, economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels, but this trend is now shifting towards renewables, and developing countries are poised to benefit from it. Based on an abundance of natural resources suitable for renewable energy generation, a massive energy demand, and the availability of dispersed rural populations, these countries will positively impact their economy through the use of renewable energy.

A worthy example is China. For the past decade, the Chinese government has emphasized renewable energy generation across the country. This emphasis led to the installation of 790GW of renewable energy in 2019. This approach continues to impact unemployment, the balance of payment, and energy poverty.

The introduction of renewable forms of utilizing biomass such as biogas stoves instead of fuelwood and charcoal has reduced indoor air pollution, thereby improving the quality of life of citizens living in countries such as China. Energy access impacts healthcare, education, and mortality.

What barriers are present?

As indicated by Ulrich Laumanns et al., in their research work on ‘Renewable Energy in Developing Countries’, one barrier to the continuous use of renewable energy systems in developing countries is the poor management of these systems due to the lack of skilled technicians in rural regions and the low information level about their proper operation.

Another issue of concern is the production of counterfeit equipment for renewable energy generation, affecting the acceptance culture in many developing countries. Through fake capacity labeling and low-quality control, several pieces of equipment have not reached their expected lifespan.

Furthermore, political and economic instability has impeded the implementation of renewable energy projects funded by private investments. Poorly implemented regulatory frameworks and bureaucratic processes have also impaired renewable energy projects in many developing countries.

Finally, some developing countries which place significant emphasis on fossil fuel production for their revenue generation have created barriers to entry for renewable energy. Fossil fuel subsidies have created room for major competition within countries like Iran, Algeria, and Indonesia.

Are there adverse effects of concern?

While renewable energy generation will undoubtedly improve the economic state of many developing countries, there are a few sources of concern that need to be simultaneously addressed.

Katherine Bronstein, in an article she wrote for RTI International, iterates that “the constituent materials of renewable energy technologies are similar to those in many electronics such as cadmium by-products, copper by-products, lead, hexafluoroethane, polyvinyl fluoride, tin, lithium, and silicon tetrachloride, which can be highly toxic to humans and the environment.”

Also, beyond the health-related consequences, rare-earth metals that are a significant part of the constituent materials will lead to climatic and environmental issues similar to those caused by fossil fuels due to insufficient safeguards in many developing countries.

Thus, developing countries need to utilize every material through reuse/recycling processes to promote a circular economy to mitigate these consequences. This approach will minimize the impact on people and the environment.

Author: Gbemibori Olaoye

Photo: jakson.com

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