A Qatar Foundation (QF) expert has highlighted the urgent need for access to sustainable energy in developing countries for their economic growth and environment protection.
Developing countries must consider sustainable energy and climate change within a broader developmental agenda, suggested Dr Muez Ali, research and policy associate, at QF’s Earthna.
“Electrifying a village with solar power, for example, is not beneficial if there are no schools or clinics, no market for businesses to sell their products, or have other basic infrastructure,” he said.
According to a story recently published on the QF website, Dr Ali feels that developing countries often lack this access, which highlights the urgent need for global action to address this issue.
Sustainable energy and climate change should not be viewed as separate issues but rather integrated into a broader developmental agenda, he noted.
Without considering the entire development context, energy access and electrification efforts will not produce positive results. The integration of infrastructure, services, and energy access is crucial to the success of development efforts in developing countries.
The expert has given an example of a small fishing village in Ghana that was electrified and became attractive to other people, resulting in overfishing and resource depletion. This shows that if electricity is provided in isolation of other services and infrastructure, it can create negative dynamics.
Dr Ali noted that one of the main problems of sustainable energy or renewable energy is their intermittency – which means they are not consistent, and they depend on certain climatic factors.“Solar energy depends on the sun, wind energy depends on the wind – they have to be implemented in parallel with power generation technology that can be switched on and off,” he said.
The advantage of sustainable energy is scalability, which can be implemented at different levels, from household to grid scale. However, the disadvantage is the need for a parallel consistent power generation technology, which is generally expensive and requires external financing. Furthermore, current efforts to increase electricity access in low-income countries through off-grid sustainable energy systems are motivated by achieving SDG7 as opposed to be being part of broader industrial strategies.
Dr Ali described: “Low-income countries face limitations in accessing finance for necessary infrastructure due to conditions attached to financing that steer away from dirty fuels. If a low-income country wants to build a coal plant in parallel to ensure a constant supply of electricity, it probably won’t get financing for it due to coal being considered dirty.
“This means that the development strategies of governments in low-income countries, however well meaning, are vulnerable to conditions mostly set by Western donors, who themselves, in light of the recent energy crisis due to the conflict in Ukraine, have prioritised energy security over emission reductions.”
“Access to finance is crucial for low-income countries to build the necessary infrastructure to develop, which would address multiple problems. Rich countries can help low-income countries by making finance available for development purposes, which by default, increases resilience to the negative impacts of climate change, and potentially lower overall carbon emissions,” Dr Ali added.
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