Facing dramatic consequences of climate change, Africa’s economic transformation must be powered by renewable energy sources!
With such a high demand for clean and reliable energy, we thought it was important for Tanzania to be able to manufacture small hydro turbines locally and start developing a national industry based on renewable energy technologies,” said Jossy Thomas, UNIDO Industrial Development Officer.
Two-thirds of Africans still lack reliable access to electricity. To make matters more complicated, population growth is soaring. In Tanzania, around half of the population is under 15 years of age and creating jobs for all the young people joining the labour market in the coming years will be a real challenge without vastly increased access to clean electricity.
Existing and upcoming small businesses could be a part of the solution. Even now, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) provide around 80% of the jobs in sub-Saharan Africa, but the energy situation makes it impossible for them to flourish. Dealing with constant blackouts, they must partially – and some of them even entirely – rely on backup generators as a source of electricity. Powered by diesel, such generators provide energy at a high cost, both financially and in terms of environmental impact, in particular, global warming.
Avoiding the traditional path to industrialization will be essential to achieving a sustainable future. With the world facing the dramatic consequences of climate change, Africa’s economic transformation must be powered by clean and renewable energy sources. This means the continent will have to leapfrog to new technologies.
With this in mind, the Government of Tanzania has made it a priority to increase access to renewable energy sources. In a partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and with funds from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a small hydropower project has helped establish eight small/mini-hydropower plants with a cumulative generating capacity of nearly 5000kW.
The project has also established a technical hub at the University of Dar el Salaam’s College of Engineering and Technology. With a focus on capacity-building, the technical hub offers consultancy and training, and, significantly, manufactures its own micro/mini hydropower turbines.
“With such a high demand for clean and reliable energy, we thought it was important for Tanzania to be able to manufacture small hydro turbines locally and start developing a national industry based on renewable energy technologies,” said Jossy Thomas, UNIDO Industrial Development Officer.
Tanzania has an abundance of water resources, rivers and streams. This allows for the production of electricity in a small scale. Almost 50% of the country’s energy capacity is generated from hydropower, but the potential for generation is at least seven times the current usage.
Richard Muyungi, Director of Environment, Vice-president’s Office, Tanzania, said, “We are using renewable energy sources in areas where we cannot reach communities through the national grid. This is going to be very important as Tanzania becomes an industrialized country.”
Globally, hydropower is the most utilized form of renewable energy. But many developing countries cannot afford to build large hydropower plants because of the high costs involved. Small hydro plants, on the other hand, are highly affordable.
Large hydro plant projects also have huge environmental impact. The construction of dams and the flooding of river valleys destroy forests, wildlife habitat, agricultural and scenic lands. Sometimes whole communities have to be relocated. By contrast, small hydropower plants have minimal impact on the environment as river water is used without significant changes to the topography or water flow.
Most important for businesses, small-scale hydraulic energy delivers a predictable amount of energy over the year. In Njombe, where one of the eight plants is set, Ayoub Michael Lwilla, said, “We see the mushrooming of small and medium enterprises, who found productive uses for electricity.”
Charles Janilofa Tave, a carpenter in Njombe, added, “Having electricity allows us to use modern machines, instead of hand tools. Now, I can do a month’s work in just one week.”
Providing access to energy is the first step in developing the manufacturing activities that will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Read about the Vienna Energy Forum Special Session 2018.
Or read the World Small Hydropower Development Report 2016.