Let's embrace renewable energy – The New Times


December 5, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Alternative Energy


Today, renewable energy is regarded as one of the primary technology solutions to combat climate change, mainly caused by continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels. The need for use of renewables is well spelt out in the Paris Agreement on Climate change, as a means of promoting ‘universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries through the enhanced deployment of renewable energy.’

It is a global commitment to abate the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risk and impact of climate change. To date, however, development and commercialisation of renewable energy technologies still face a number of significant bottlenecks, especially in the developing world. Such includes lack of awareness and knowledge of the importance of renewables in achieving sustainable development and climatic stabilisation, lack of clear regulatory and policy framework, uncertainty about whether governments should support renewable energy technologies, energy security and capacity to provide base load power, over dependence on fossil fuels by industries et cetera.

In pursuance of achieving renewables, the global community established an international agency known as International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), whose mandate is to support ‘countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international cooperation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy.’ However, countries need to assume the ownership role to use sustainable forms of renewable energy. The most common renewables used, particularly in Africa, are bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower and solar. In Rwanda, for example, we dominantly use hydropower, solar and biomass. At this point, this is a promising course of action. However, more needs to be done in terms of bolstering and subsidising domestic investments as well as attracting foreign investors in this field of renewables. No doubt, citizens need to be enlightened about the importance of renewable energy to the environment in pursuance of sustainable development.

Without changing patterns of over reliance on fossil fuels, achieving sustainable development and climate stabilisation may be a chimera. Renewable energy generation is key for the attainment of sustainable development and climate stabilisation. States ought to be always keen to embrace renewable energy. However, renewable energy developments are not supported by any legally binding norm. Despite that, there’re international norms negotiated for different purposes and in different fore that can incidentally introduce a sense of obligation on States to pursue renewable energy goals. A good case in point is the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In truth, absence of internationally binding instruments setting a positive discipline for renewable energy generation, the pursuit of renewable energy goals through national policies cannot alone sufficiently accelerate a shift from heavy reliance on the fossil fuels to environmental-friendly renewables. Any international legal development fostering renewable energy generation should be embraced to the greatest extent possible.

Despite the reticence on the global quantified renewable energy targets, the absence of binding norms on renewable energy generation, global cooperation in the field of renewable energy is gaining momentum. The recent entry into force of the Paris Agreement and other regionaldevelopments in renewable energy cooperation respectively triggered by the creation of the International Renewable Energy Agency and by the growing number of transnational private partnerships operating in that field is a wonderful spadework.

Emphatically, the utilisation of renewable energy is a key to the achievement of sustainable development. Alternative sources of energy are one of the means to accelerate poverty reduction and cut the bulk of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions responsible for anthropogenic global warming with the help of utility scale renewable power projects and more flexible small-scale renewable energy systems. Therefore, investing in renewable energy shouldn’t be seen as an economic burden but a precursor to sustainable development. Equally, it has been proved that renewable energy is a critical part of reducing global carbon emissions and the pace of investment has greatly increased as the cost of technologies fall and efficiency continues to rise. However, the benefits of renewables go beyond reducing carbon emissions; here are just three reasons why renewables are rapidly making their way up the energy agenda.

First, the majority of oil and gas sources are concentrated in certain regions, many of which are getting more technically challenging and more expensive to reach, whereas renewable energy is domestic. It provides security of supply, helping a nation reduce its dependence on imported sources. Second, it plays a significant role in addressing our energy needs by replacing foreign energy imports with clean and reliable home-grown electricity with the added bonus of local economic opportunities. Of course, as noted above and below, renewable energy is important because of the benefits it provides.

Third, renewable energy technologies are an infinite source of power of long-term certainty. Renewables will not run out. Other sources of energy are finite and will someday be depleted. Finally, let’s embrace renewable energy technologies which are clean sources of energy that have a much lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies. As States aim to attain sustainable development and climate stabilisation, investment in renewable energy must be the golden rule.

The writer is an international law expert.

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