Opinion: Renewables Can Help Africa, But Real Solutions Lie In Nuclear, Coal And Natural Gas

By Staff Published: April 23, 2017, 3:59 pm
Renewables can help AfricaWind farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Stephen Morrison/EPA

Solar technology in Africa, including my country of Uganda, would bring good news to millions of people who today must use firewood, charcoal and dung for cooking. Millions of Africans die from lung infections caused by breathing fumes from these fires.

Solar technologies could help Africa, because this multi-purpose energy can cook food, light homes, charge cell phones and even power tiny refrigerators. Renewable energy from wind turbines can deliver even more electricity.

Those are huge benefits, and I applaud them. However, we must not look at wind and solar as anything more than short-term solutions to fix serious, immediate problems.

They do not equal real economic development or really improved living standards. Our cities need abundant, reliable electricity. For faraway villages, wind and solar must be only temporary to meet basic needs until they can be connected to transmission lines and a grid.

From Canada Free Press. Opinion by Steven Lyazi, a student and worker in Kampala, Uganda. He served as special assistant on the Congress of Racial Equality-Uganda. He plans to attend college and help Africa get the energy and living standards it needs.

Only with abundant, reliable electricity can we have modern homes, heating, lighting, cooking, refrigeration, offices, factories, schools, shops and hospitals, so that we can enjoy the same living standards people in industrialized countries do (and think is their right). We deserve the same rights.

That is why I react strongly to people and organizations that think wind and solar electricity and solar ovens should be enough, or the end of our progress, and everyone should be happy that their lives have improved a little. I do not accept that but I see it all the time.

At least a dozen companies are selling solar ovens and other solar technologies in Uganda. There’s Blazing Tube Solar from Hawaii and Home Energy Africa, which sells Dutch products. Green Energy Africa is registered in Kenya. It says its renewable energy systems “provide electricity without depleting the earth’s limited resources.”

Those systems generate very limited electricity and require raw materials that are limited in quantity and must be dug out of the earth and turned into products using fossil fuels. But we’re not supposed to think about that.

There’s also Solar point Uganda Limited, Energy Made in Uganda, New Age Solar Technologies Ltd, New Sun Limited, Solar Assembly Plant for African Villages, and other companies.

They can help solve some of our electricity, cooking and indoor air pollution problems, but we need real energy, real electricity – a lot of it, reliable and affordable.

Many people don’t know that Africa has some big dreams. One is a trans East Africa railway that will link Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Horn of Africa countries.

This will be a first-of-its-kind electric railway, 466 miles long, and it will need tremendous amounts of energy that cannot come from wind turbines and solar panels.

It will have to come from nuclear power plants, or coal or natural gas-generating plants.

Africa has these resources in great abundance but so far we are barely developing or using them, except maybe to export oil to wealthy nations. We should use them.

Right now, most of our natural gas from oil fields is just burned and wasted right there. Why not build gas pipelines to power plants to generate electricity for millions? Why not build nuclear and coal plants, and hydroelectric projects like the Bujagali and Karuma Dams on the Nile River in Uganda?

Mostly because powerful environmentalist groups oppose these projects. They care more about plants, animals and their own power than about African people.

Climate changes and droughts have been part of our history forever, and modern energy and technology would help us cope with them better in the future. We must stop focusing on climate change.

African governments are not doing enough to build the energy, transportation and communication systems we desperately need. They are not standing up to Europeans, global banks or environmentalists who oppose big power plants in Africa. They need to do better at helping their people.

Our leaders need to remember that Europe and the U.S. did not have a World Bank or other outside help when they modernized and industrialized. They did it themselves. National and local governments, groups of citizens and businesses, and various banks and investors did it. They invented things, financed big projects, and built their cities and countries. China and India have figured this out.

Africa needs to do the same thing and stop relying on outsiders, bowing to their demands, and letting them dictate our future. We have the energy and other natural resources, and the smart, talented, hardworking people to get the job done. We just need to be set free to do it.

Read more at Canada Free Press.

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