Renewable Energy in Zambia
Zambia has enjoyed significant economic growth in the past few decades. With prosperity, Zambia’s demand for electricity has increased. However, the current energy supply has struggled to meet this demand. Zambia relies on hydroelectric power for more than 85% of its electricity and frequent droughts prevent these plants from operating at full capacity. Further, the average nationwide rate of access to electricity is 30%. Worse yet, only 5% of the rural population has electricity access. The Zambian government has set a target of 50% electricity access across the nation by 2030. As electricity demands continue to grow, the expansion of renewable energy in Zambia is critical for the country’s social and economic development.

Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project

To aid in the sustainable development of Zambia’s energy resources, renewable energy projects are underway. One such initiative is the European Union (EU)-funded Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project. The project is a collaboration between the EU and the Zambian government to provide technical assistance to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) of Zambia. The project’s assistance will help fund the REA’s development of energy infrastructure. The project began in 2017 and should have reached completion in 2021.

Specifically, the Capacity Building for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency project is striving to establish a collection of solar-powered mini-grids to provide electricity to rural Zambian communities. Mini-grids are small electricity generators interconnected to an energy distribution network. These are useful in Zambia because the grids do not require the construction of long stretches of electrical lines. The mini-grids will provide electricity to an estimated 10,000 people living in rural communities in Zambia.

Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant

Another initiative to develop renewable energy in Zambia is the Renewable Energy for Sustainable Development in Zambia project. Created by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme, this initiative seeks to bring readily available and local renewable energy sources. One of the initiative’s projects is the construction of the Shiwang’andu Small Hydropower Plant, which the Zambian government commissioned in 2012. The Shiwang’andu plant supplies a solar mini-grid that will provide electricity to more than 25,000 people in the Mpanta region.

Hydropower plants generate power using the energy that the flow of water creates. This energy generation requires the water to flow across an elevation difference, from a higher point to a lower point. Usually, dams are built in running bodies of water, such as rivers, to construct this elevation difference.

Because constructing hydropower plants involves building dams in bodies of water, the developers of the Shiwang’andu plant had to consider the plant’s impact on wildlife. Developers installed a second dam during construction to divert water, which maintained normal downstream water flow. They also included a 1.5-meter gate within the dam to help fish, crabs, shrimp and other migrating animals.

Renewable Energy Key to Expand Sustainable Access to Electricity

As Zambia continues to see economic growth, and as it aims to provide electricity access to a greater percentage of its population, the nation’s energy demands will continue to increase. The development of renewable energy in Zambia is an efficient and eco-friendly way to expand the country’s energy resources, which should provide sustainable access to electricity for more Zambians in the years to come.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Vietnam
On February 22, 2021, Vietnam released the national power development plan (PDP 8) for the 2021-2030 draft for public comment. This plan highlighted the commitment of Vietnam in the transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. Until 2020, Vietnam’s effort to continuously divest its energy sources and focus on renewable energy projects has put it in a good position to become Asia’s next clean energy powerhouse. This article will provide an understanding of renewable energy in Vietnam as well as lessons for other countries transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Vietnam’s Economic Growth and Renewable Energy Investments

Researchers and experts have pointed out that one of the critical factors in Vietnam’s explosive renewable energy growth is its economic growth. According to the Asian Development Bank, the country has seen its economy grow by 6% annually since 2014, and 7% since 2018. Coupled with the country’s population increase, Vietnam’s swift economic growth drives up energy consumption at an extraordinary rate. Consumption of electricity has increased by more than 11% a year, growing faster than the GDP of Vietnam. According to the International Energy Agency report, Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s second-largest electricity consumer. The statistics affirm that if Vietnam wants to continue growing its economy and attracting foreign investors, it needs to move away from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.

Vietnam’s Green Energy Potential

Another important reason why Vietnam has gradually moved away from fossil fuels is its green energy potential capacity. A report from the World Bank pointed out that Vietnam has one of the highest numbers of installed solar panels in Southeast Asia. Recently, renewable energy in Vietnam has seen massive solar outputs of electricity and energy, with the country producing 16,500 MW at the end of 2020. According to the statistics from a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Vietnam is among the top 10 countries with the highest capacity of solar energy panels as of 2020. Vietnam has an estimated 311 GWs of wind energy, one of the best resources in the region. Accompanied by the government’s commitment to investing in renewable energy, Vietnam is in a strong position to become a leader in the world in renewable energy development and innovative energy solutions.

The Need for Green Energy Projects

The second most important element of Vietnam’s recent renewable growth is its public commitment. A by-product of Vietnam’s economic boom was its massive carbon footprint and environmental pollution. Recent severe air and water pollution incidents in major cities have created public pressure that opposes any new development of coal power plants. Vietnamese people living in urban areas have been wearing their protective facemasks long before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the increasing number of cars and motorbikes on public streets has created a hazardous environment.

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have seen pollution levels four times higher than what the World Health Organization (WHO) considers acceptable. Recent Vietnamese governmental reports said that local governments refuse new power projects because of their environmental implications. As a result, urban planners and the Vietnamese government are reshaping their energy market to incorporate more solar and wind energy in order to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Experts believe that Vietnam can become a study case for renewable energy financiers and investors, thanks to its vast solar and wind energy potential.

Vietnam’s Accomplishments in Renewable Energy

From the beginning of 2014 through 2015, the country only produced 4 MW of installed solar energy for power generation. Renewable energy in Vietnam is only 0.32% of the total electricity that the country generates. Yet, as the statistics have pointed out, in just over five years, Vietnam has produced over 7.4 GW of rooftop solar power. Its renewable energy share boasts 10% of the country’s total electricity generated.

Researchers have estimated that Vietnam would produce more than 16.5 GW of solar energy, and 11.8 GW of wind energy. The government has already prepared for more onshore and offshore wind projects by 2025, which should produce 12 GW of energy capacity. These projects include wind farms in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, which projections have determined will produce about 170 million kilowatt-hours of green energy per year, along with Bac Lieu offshore wind projects. Along with these projects, the government’s effort and policies show precisely why Vietnam is on track to become Asia’s next renewable energy powerhouse.

The Impact of Vietnam’s Growth in Renewable Energy

Vietnam’s recent accomplishments in renewable energy have contributed to combating extreme poverty both nationally and globally. With the help of a booming green energy market, the country’s yearly poverty rate has been declining gradually. Vietnam has gone from a country with a rural electrification rate of 2.5%to being able to connect millions of rural families to the national grid, and the country is on track to provide more green energy to rural areas. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, these transitions will experience enhancement, thanks to renewable energy. In urban areas, renewable energy can help combat economic inequalities by providing a cleaner environment and stable energy prices. As the country has a commitment to transforming its energy, its economy will likely benefit and reduce extreme poverty.

These factors have contributed to the fast and efficient transformation of renewable energy in Vietnam. From a country that heavily relied on fossil fuels, Vietnam has become one of the leading countries in green energy. This transition helps the country combat weather changes while also uplifting the nation’s economy and providing solutions for eradicating poverty.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Sweden
Sweden is one of the world-leading countries in the transition to renewable energy. Sweden plans to operate in all sectors with 100% renewable energy power generation by 2040 and reduce greenhouse emissions to zero by 2045. In 2018, 68% of Sweden’s electricity derived from the renewable energy source hydro energy. Today, Sweden has been able to introduce innovation from energy companies that make the renewable energy market a booming capital venture with an aim to full-coverage renewable energy operations.

What is Renewable Energy?

Often known as clean energy, renewable energy is a sustainable, climate-driven and innovative alternative to fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal. Renewable energy consists of natural wind, sun, water and nuclear elements that can produce electricity through transmissions. Heating, lights and factory machines often use the cost-effective option of fossil fuels. However, the limited quantity and damaging dispositions of fossil fuels have caused environmental concerns for Swedish and international energy companies. These concerns have resulted in a rising demand for resources and data about renewable energies.

Renewable Energy Sources in Sweden

Renewable energies are the fastest-growing source of electricity in Sweden with more than 50% of the current electricity production adding up to 89,306 gigawatt-hours. Although nuclear energy has had contributing factors in Sweden with 42% of the country’s 2018 electricity production, nuclear usage has sparked many concerns since 1980.

Hydro energy is the leading renewable energy source in Sweden. It powers most electricity productions with 61,605 GWh in 2018, while wind energy is the second efficient renewable energy source with more than 20 TWh in 2019. Forests, the largest biofuel in Sweden, regulate the country’s bioenergy. These forests cover 63% of Swedish land. Furthermore, solar energy could surge from 400 GWh in 2018 to 1.7 TWh in 2022.

The International Renewable Energy Agency stated that “The country’s power system is almost entirely decarbonized already, based on extensive hydropower resources and nuclear power, as well as district heating fuelled by biomass.” Sweden has successfully integrated energy powers with its current climate objectives, including the taxation of carbon dioxide emissions on factories and other sectors.

Citizens Approve of Renewable Power

Sweden has been increasingly operating on hydro-driven electricity since the first lightbulb in 1882. As citizens comfortably adapt to the country’s rich supply of moving water and biomass, transportation and electricity bills are also becoming a great benefit. The Borgen Project spoke with Stockholm-based Health Administration student Ajoub Junior about whether complete renewable energy by 2040 is possible for Sweden. Junior stated, “I do believe it because I’ve seen great improvements all over around Sweden this few years.” As electricity companies transition to 100% renewable energy sources, many customers are noticing cheaper bills and changes in climate policies. Junior said, “In 10 to 20 years from now, I hope this country is free from fossil fuels.”

The Contribution of Competitive Markets

Vattenfall AB, Fortum Oyj, Swedish Biofuels AB, General Electric Company and RES Group are Sweden’s top five leading renewable energy companies to date, making the market “moderately consolidated.”

With a competitive market in a ready-to-go country, a 100% sustainable energy operation by 2040 is certainly an attainable goal. Although experts believe challenges in policy and system operations will likely compromise the prediction, achieving a 100% renewable power system is a possible goal with a promising future for Sweden’s climate.

Ayesha Swaray
Photo: Flickr

3 Renewable Energy Initiatives that Empower WomenProviding women with access to clean energy is crucial in the fight against poverty and gender inequality. Women experience energy poverty at higher rates than men and are more likely to die from indoor air pollution caused by nonrenewable household energy solutions. When women have access to electricity, they have greater opportunities to pursue an education, find employment and become civically involved. This article examines three renewable energy initiatives that empower women to create change within their communities and lives.

The Importance of Including Women in the Renewable Energy Sector

The renewable energy sector has ample employment opportunities, with a projected 29 million job opportunities by 2050. While this creates room for women within the workforce, 68% of hires are men. The World Economic Forum (WEF) explains that empowering women in the industry and in their communities “will strengthen economic and social progress and support governments to deliver gender-balanced, sustainable energy for all.”

Including women also has a positive impact on the energy sector. When women run energy enterprises, work in energy and create energy policies, the policies are more efficient. The utilities earn more revenue and sell more energy commodities. Thus, including women in the industry can help improve efficiency and generate profit.

As WEF explained, empowering women in their communities can be transformative. When given the opportunity, one woman can power 50 homes in her community. This is because women “hold strong social capital in communities, [so] they are better able to reach out to other women to generate awareness about clean energy solutions and its positive impacts on their lives.” It is clear that working to empower women with renewable energy opportunities benefits both the industry and communities.

3 Projects that Empower Women with Renewable Energy

Despite the fact that women are underrepresented in the renewable energy sector, there are many organizations that empower women with renewable energy initiatives.

  1. Solar Sister: The U.N. describes Solar Sister as “an award-winning social enterprise advancing women’s entrepreneurship to bring off-grid electricity and clean cooking solutions to underserved communities across sub-Saharan Africa.” Solar Sister trains women in entrepreneurship and equips them with the services and goods they will need for their sustainable businesses. These women, in turn, provide renewable energy to those in need in rural communities in African countries. Currently, Solar Sister works in Nigeria and Tanzania and has previously worked in Uganda. The organization hopes to be actively working in five countries by 2022. As of 2020, Solar Sister has trained more than 5,000 entrepreneurs who have provided electricity to almost two million people.
  2. Barefoot College: Barefoot College is an organization in India that trains women to be entrepreneurs, solar engineers and teachers so that they can bring electricity and education to their communities. Barefoot College works in more than 2,000 villages and 93 countries. The organization provides solar energy education, training, empowerment programs, clean water initiatives, education for children and healthcare programs.
  3. ENVenture: The ENVenture program, sponsored by New Energy Nexus, supports Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in villages in Uganda so that these CBOs can establish clean energy businesses. After a year, the CBOs that perform the best receive more financial support. ENVenture has helped provide energy access to 95,000 people. It has created 600 jobs, 70% of which are filled by women.

Moving Forward

These three projects show how renewable energy initiatives can empower women and benefit communities. Whether through financial support or education, these organizations are empowering women with renewable energy solutions to expand their horizons. Moving forward, it is essential that more organizations make renewable energy and women’s empowerment a priority.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr