Frankfurt — ACCESS to electricity remains key to any developing country such as Zambia but the question is can Zambia rise to the challenge and emulate Germany's success story of use of renewable energy to its people?
The use of renewable energy which is environmental friendly especially in this time when the world is concerned about the environmental challenges due to climatic changes is key to a sustainable energy future.
But within the two decades renewable energies have been developed from alternative energy sources for a few pioneers in the worlds of academia, politics and business into one of the most important economic trends of the 21st century.
For example the proverbial garage and enterprises in the northern and southern Germany have become companies with global reach that earns billons of Euros and has employed over 370,000 people in Germany alone.
For a country such as Germany, the use of renewable energy has become top on its agenda with Euros' 211 billion investments in the renewable energy programmes as at 2010.
The country has also continued to develop new technology for the utilization of renewable energy whose project stood at 11 per cent in the year 2010.
Germany has moved steps further by exploiting new off shores at sea potential through its windmills projects.
Back to Zambia who currently has challenges of meeting the electricity demand, during the commonwealth economic forum which was held in Berlin few weeks ago, former Mines, Energy and Water development Minister Christopher Yaluma told the delegates that, Zambia's renewable energy utilization still remains negligible accounting less that 1 per cent of the total energy consumption.
In a presentation made on his behalf by ZESCO director of transmission Christopher Mubemba, Mr Yaluma said there is still more room for development.
He, however, called for importation of technologies to harness renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydro.
He further said setting up manufacturing plants for renewable energy technologies such as wind mills, biogas digesters solar systems, among others, as a way of providing energy.
He revealed that the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) was at the moment providing incentives for electricity generated from solar energy as well as tax exemptions on solar equipments and other equipments that would assist in energy management.
The minister said Zambian power sector was vibrant considering many projects under implementation underway and are expected to be completed by 2017 to the national grid which would add a total of 1,700 MW.
And during a lecturer, a German-based consultant Klaus Heidler, challenged Developed countries to seriously consider investing in renewable energy technologies which have minimal impact on the environment.
Solar Consulting Agency for Sustainable Communication, Chief Executive Officer Dr Heidler said there was need for countries such as Germany and other European countries to consider helping developing countries with technologies that would help them adapt to the use of renewable sustainable energy. Speaking when he gave a lecturer on renewable energy- potentials and technologies to a group of journalists undergoing Environmental reporting training, Dr Heidler said supporting of renewable energy projects to African and Asian countries was key to a safer environment considering the climatic condition the world is faced with.
"I feel that it is time the African countries considered investing in technologies as a means of promoting the renewable energy whose study has shown that it has minimal impact on the environment,"he said.
He said that technologies that can be supported includes solar thermal heating, solar thermal power, solar photovoltaic (PV), wind power, small hydro power, geothermal power and biomass.
He said the major advantage with the use of renewable energy is that as it is renewable it is therefore sustainable and so would never run out.
He added that renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators while the fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the costs of operation.
"Even more importantly, renewable energy produces little or no waste products such as carbon dioxide or other chemical pollutants, so renewable energy projects can also bring economic benefits to many regional areas, as most projects are located away from large urban centres and suburbs of the capital cities, "he said.
These economic benefits may be from the increased use of local services as well as tourism.
It is easy to recognise the environmental advantages of utilising the alternative and renewable forms of energy but we must also be aware of the disadvantages. One disadvantage with renewable energy Dr Heidler is that it is difficult to generate the quantities of electricity that are as large as those produced by traditional fossil fuel generators.
This may mean that we need to reduce the amount of energy we use or simply build more energy facilities.
Another disadvantage of renewable energy sources is the reliability of supply and often relies on the weather for its source of power.
It is clear that renewable energies sector is more than just a technical trend that can be exploited to make fast money but the new technologies are effective weapons the country have in fighting climate change because they supply energy but produces no greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
After all is said and done it is hoped Zambia would soon start seen the fruits of renewable energies investment into Zambia so as to make the country more sustainable and be able to provide electricity, especially to those in rural areas.