Any forward-looking person would agree that the wise thing to do would be to start mainstreaming alternative energy sources.
According to a study carried out by United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), biomass currently accounts for 50% of the energy used in Zimbabwe, with coal and electricity accounting for 13% and 12% respectively.
Fuel wood remains the major source of cooking, lighting and heating, mostly in rural and peri-urban areas, which would help explain why areas that previously had dense forests now lay bare.
Conventional energy sources (that we cannot reproduce) such as oil, natural gas, and firewood have without doubt played a pivotal role in promoting economic growth while making people’s lives easier.
Unfortunately, besides demand continually getting higher and more unsustainable, it is now common knowledge that such conventional energy sources have for a very long time now, had a negative impact on our environment.
For instance, the fossil fuels that form the basis of conventional energy, deposit greenhouse gases into our environment every day, which scientists believe to be the chief cause of the so-called human-induced climate change and global warming scourge that continues to cause a stir worldwide.
Considering this, it then makes sense to invest in those unconventional energy sources that not only guarantee us sustainable future energy supplies, but assures us of clean energy that benefits us without killing the environment and further jeopardiasing our future well-being and that of generations to come.
In Zimbabwe, there is still a major reliance on conventional energy sources with the country often having been pulled backwards owing to insufficient supplies.
In spite of this, there still appears to be a reluctance to look to a future without heavy dependency on the erratic conventional energy supplies. Consider the unreliable electricity supply situation for instance; Zimbabweans have for many years now suffered intense power-rationing that has not only stalled progress in homes, but has cost the country huge business opportunities. One would think by now we would have known better than to rely on the erratic supply of electricity from Zesa and invested in more reliable energy sources, like solar energy.
Instead, those who can afford it tend to rely on generators, which, besides polluting the air and often making a lot of noise, require fuel, yet another non-renewable resource. As for those who reckon they are too poor to purchase a solar panel, consider how much you have to fork out to Zesa every month, and for what?
Alternative energy sources like solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy among others, are renewable, which makes them reliable sources whose consistent supply we can bank on.
But maybe the best part is that they are environmentally-friendly as they have been proved to have lower carbon emissions compared to conventional energy sources.
Take solar energy for instance; it is considered the best thing going from an environmental perspective as it involves no urban smog, no acid rain, no pollution whatsoever and does not use up natural resources. Furthermore, it is renewable and as long as we have the sun (and we often have lots of it), its energy will reach Earth.
The Chisumbanje ethanol-blended fuel project by Green Fuel in Zimbabwe needs to be applauded as it is certainly a move in the right direction. It should help ease demand on the petroleum-based fuel, which has adverse effects on the environment and whose supply is not guaranteed as most of it is imported from the Middle East.
But having been used to the conventional energy sources for so long, it is natural that people would be sceptical of the new source. That is why before alternative energy becomes mainstream, people need to be educated on how they work and why they are beneficial.
Although there is a lot of potential for the establishment of renewable energy technologies, either due to lack of experience, interest or funding, these have not really been utilised in Zimbabwe.
Access to energy is essential for the promotion of economic growth and consequent reduction of poverty.
In order for the country to comfortably move into the future, we need to safeguard future energy supplies. That will only be made possible if we move towards renewable energy.
According to British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell, two of the world’s largest oil companies, “By 2050, one-third of the world’s energy will come from solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.”
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