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The Renewable Energy Invasion: End of Fossil Fuel in Sight?

NIGERIA - 7th JUNE, 2016 - Climate change is causing more damages to the earth every day. Increasing heat waves, floods, earthquakes, drought, forest fire, sea level rise and wars are directly or indirectly influenced by climate anomaly facilitated by fossil fuel.

Over the past few months, Nigeria has been enduring a scorching heat wave, and ambient temperatures in many parts of the country appear to be reaching unprecedented levels. However, Nigeria is not alone, as an excruciating heat has apparently engulfed planet Earth, and in many countries, mercury readings in thermometer bulbs have been racing skywards in recent months. Globally, the year 2016 has already been certified as the hottest year ever. 

According to CNN, two weeks ago, India recorded its highest ever temperature of 51 degrees Celsius. The country seems to be nearing boiling point, with tarred roads melting under people’s feet, farmlands turning to “caked” lands, wells and rivers drying up and fierce looking gunmen employed to protect water reservoirs by those who still have some left. Some State governments in India estimate that more than 370 people have been killed by heat stroke in 2016 alone.

In Pakistan, Reuters reports that following last summer’s severe heat waves which claimed more than 1,300 lives, the government is readying hospitals and digging up mass graves in “preparation” for a likely repeat of such catastrophe this year. Similar high temperatures are being recorded in Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and some other countries across the globe.

As far as the world is concerned – or more accurately, the majority of the world is concerned, as there are still some recalcitrant climate change deniers out there – the reality of climate change is “official” and these horrific news emerging from different parts of the world are just some of its impacts. What is also “official” is the fact that continued burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of this phenomenon, and that until the world stops burning fossil fuels and achieves a transition to renewable energy, more grave stories will continue to emerge.

It is in an attempt to forestall this approaching devastation that governments, businesses, institutions and individuals around the world are starting to ditch fossil fuels and turn to renewable energy (RE).
There are doubts about the feasibility of such energy transition, and dogged skepticisms continue to trail the potentials of renewables to step up and sufficiently replace fossil fuels. However, RE technologies, especially solar and wind, have thus far defied those odds and are smashing records and barriers in many countries of the world. 

Last July, the Guardian reported that unusually high winds allowed Denmark to generate 140% of its electricity demand from wind power, thus meeting its own electricity needs and having plenty to spare for Germany, Norway and Sweden. More recently, reports emerging from Portugal last month noted that the entire electricity consumed for some four straight days was generated from a combination of solar, wind and hydro power. Similar remarkable news have recently emanated from Germany. According to Fortune, on May 8, 2016, Germany produced so much electricity from its numerous wind turbines that it had to pay people to use the excess. 

At a global level, renewable energy is experiencing a rapid growth in investments, added capacity and energy produced. According to 2016 Renewable Global Energy status report, renewable energy contributed a record high 19.2% of total global energy consumption in the last year.

It is interesting to note that in spite of these impressive performances by renewable energy in developed countries, African countries who possibly need this rapidly emerging technology the most are the ones paying the least attention to it. Particularly in Nigeria, renewable energy has failed to gain any significant traction, acceptance or support from either the public or the government.

The reasons for this lack of interest in renewable energy among Nigerians are not far-fetched. According to an energy expert, Salau Farouq “on a small scale or household level, the biggest challenge facing renewables in Nigeria is that of inadequate finance to cover the high initial cost of RE technologies. As the Nigerian economy is currently in a wobbly state, many Nigerian households are not financially buoyant enough to even consider investing in RE technologies.” He, however, noted that with the right marketing strategy, RE technologies could make a breakthrough in affluent Nigerian neighbourhoods such as Lekki-Victoria Island in Lagos and Maitama -Asokoro in Abuja. 

Mr. Farouq, also observed that the main challenges hindering the use of renewable energy for industrial purposes are those of land availability and maintenance cost. For firms and companies to generate enough RE capacity to power their economic activities, they may need land areas that could run into hectares. As most companies are located in Lagos – an overpopulated and overcrowded city – getting such land area is either impossible or too costly to be economically feasible.

These challenges – for both industry and households – are further compounded by a Nigerian government that has shown little interest in supporting RE as a genuine alternative energy source. A more RE-friendly policy by the Nigerian government could address some of these issues.

Thus far, renewable energy has demonstrated a strong tendency to replace fossil fuels in the global energy mix and contribute to climate change mitigation. Judging by the devastation that climate change is causing in Nigeria and other countries across the world, it is clear that the earlier a largescale adoption of RE technologies happens, the better for Nigerians and the rest of the world.

Ridwan Bello and Emeka Ulor are Environmentalists and Climate Tracker Fellows.
Bello is studying sustainable development at the University of St Andrews.
Ulor has an MSc in Geography and Planning from University of Lagos.

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The Renewable Energy Invasion: End of Fossil Fuel in Sight? Reviewed by Olumide Idowu on Tuesday, June 07, 2016 Rating: 5
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