Friday, June 10, 2016

Renewable Energy Innovations at Household Level

By Dr. Pacifica Achieng Ogola
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change underpins the importance of increasing renewable energy in developing countries. The Agreement also adopts an ambitious emission reduction target consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C and while working towards 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.
The high mitigation ambition calls for scaling up of clean technologies, which will strengthen growth of low carbon investments across different sectors.
A woman cooking using biogas. TRF/ Brian Inganga
The preamble and sections of the Agreement on adaptation also calls for gender equality and women empowerment, as well as adoption of gender-responsive approaches in capacity-building efforts by countries.
In most developing countries and African countries in particular, opportunities to respond to energy crisis and gender needs are unexploited. Potential in renewable energy and in particular efficient use and conservation of biomass and green non-biomass solutions at rural household level is unexploited.
Over the centuries, a lot of progress has been made to exploit and to convert renewable energy resources into usable forms. Conversion methods and tools have also evolved over time but improvement of efficiencies is still evolving.
Despite this progress, 700 million Africans do not have access to clean and efficient cooking methods mainly due to high costs and culture. The consequence of this according to the World Health Organization is that globally, 1.6 million annual deaths are attributed to indoor air pollution from cooking using firewood, dung, and organic waste.
In Africa alone, over 600,000 women and children die every year from the impacts of indoor pollution. The goal of the UN-initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) inspires universal access to modern cooking solutions by 2030.
In particular, the Post-2015 framework on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires concerted efforts from all to lift women and children out of smoky kitchens and reduce time and money spent sourcing for fuel.
Particularly relevant to clean cooking is Goal seven on access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Universal access to clean cooking solutions is also essential to attainment of many SDGs such as Goal three on reducing global mortality and improving overall wellbeing; Goal four on inclusive and equitable education for all children; and environmental sustainability as stated in Goal 13 on Climate Change; Goal 14 on Water; Goal 15 on Land Resources and Goal 17 on International Cooperation.
The high population growth rate and energy demand for cooking requires a transformation in the way we produce, deliver and consume energy particularly at the rural household level. The current household energy system depends on biomass whose combustion according to Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accounts for 25 per cent of global black carbon emissions.
Black carbon makes up a significant proportion of fine particulate matter, which is a pollutant most associated with premature death and morbidity. Non-biomass cooking solutions such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and biogas technology can offer renewable energy solutions in reducing organic pollutants.
Studies have shown that improved cook stoves can save between 35 per cent and 80 per cent of wood or charcoal compared to traditional cooking methods.
According to the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) for sub-Saharan Africa, the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement potential is on carbon sequestration projects. About 70 percent of the sequestration is attributed to Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) as well as the use of biomass energy and household food security programs.
All these are areas predominantly in the domains managed by women and children especially in rural settings. The INDCs also have specific interventions for household energy systems and associated policies with e expected positive impact on both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
This calls for rigor in planning, management, investment and monitoring of actions in clean cooking as well as focused financial resource-mobilization, policies that promote resource use efficiency, development non conventional renewable energy, innovation and research as well as social equity and gender equality.
These initiatives must be supported with meaningful actions, leadership and partnership and should culminate in not only developing products and services that are cost and need efficient, but also scalable, sustainable and gender responsive.
It is therefore important for African Countries to take appropriate steps to develop national consultative mechanisms that are aligned to transition to clean cooking technologies and gender responsive low carbon investments. To achieve these, bold, transformative and adaptive leadership in formulating green growth policies and strategies is obligatory.
Concerted efforts must be made to deliver policies in all relevant sectors that incentivise and remove the biggest barriers to adoption and use of clean cooking methods. The idea is to have accessible least cost products with maximum impacts on household health, time and budget while reducing emissions and enhancing resilience.
One of the biggest barriers to adoption of clean cook stoves in Africa is culture. It is also worth noting that there is no one size fits all cook stove, and manufacturers must be encouraged to tailor their products to local culture to increase adoption rate.
Users must be the champions of this transformation as they are directly affected and understand the challenges and possible local solutions. Innovative payment systems such as easy mobile payments, household credit facilities, revolving funds as well as timely and coordinated technology transfer to users can have a significant impact in acquisition and use of clean stoves.
Successful adoption of solar technology such as Women Barefoot Solar Engineers, which includes some grandmothers, who are delivering energy in rural areas, can be emulated. Integration of benefits from clean stoves should also be included in education and curriculum to ensure awareness is increased and that people are equipped with skills and passion to implement at an early stage.
Training and awareness can also be effected using innovation and demonstration centres to train local entrepreneurs and build a pool of technicians of both genders. Clean cook stoves can enhance livelihoods through local production or maintenance as well as inclusive and equitable education for more children as articulated in Goal number four of the SDGs.
Dr. Pacifica F. Achieng Ogola is the Climate Change Director Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities. E-mail

Article is available in edition 17 of Joto Afrika Newsletter. Download a copy here

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