By turning to sources of renewable energy like solar, wind, and hydropower, nations that are heavily dependent on fossil fuels will be able to greatly reduce their carbon emissions and potentially lower the rate at which our planet is heating up.
However, it’s feared that as that transition to renewables takes place in developed nations, rising third world regions like Asia and Africa will more than wipe out those gains as their core energy needs grow and they turn to what will likely be a mixture of both fossil fuels and renewables to power their development.
At least that was the assumption just a few years ago says Sanjeev Mansotra, an entrepreneur who founded a successful company in the steel industry that he has since used as the foundation to create several other businesses. He notes that just a few years ago, it was thought that Africa in particular, would be priced out of renewables and forced to burn the cheapest fossil fuels it could get its hands on.
However, thanks to continued education and investment within the renewables sector, costs are coming down rapidly. In fact, even without subsidization, renewable energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels in most cases according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2018 Renewable Power Generation Costs report.
Renewables are in fact getting so cheap that new solar and wind installations will increasingly be cheaper than simply continuing to run an already existing coal-fired power plant. Needless to say, there’s virtually no reason for Africa or any other region to even think about fossil fuels now.
Interestingly, the developing world appears to have been well ahead of the curve for years already, having outspent developed countries on renewables in 2015 for the first time. That list was skewed heavily by China however, which accounted for 36% of the entire planet’s investment in renewables that year.
Benefits of Establishing Renewable Energy Sources
Sanjeev Mansotra states that developing countries actually have an advantage over developed countries in that they have less existing infrastructure to worry about or phase out. He says some of these communities have never had electricity at all and that renewables represent a far easier and cheaper solution for them than the alternative. African countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania have all been making big investments in renewables and using small-scale renewable energy systems to power entire communities.
There is also less outside pressure affecting policy decisions that can impact subsidies and other factors that can spur or hinder the availability and growth of certain types of energy within a region.
Another factor that could be guiding developing nations towards renewables according to Sanjeev Mansotra is that many of them are more susceptible to the potential devastation of climate change than developed nations are. In particular, their economies are more reliant on the natural environment, with agriculture often being the leading employment option in many developing nations.
Without the wealth or infrastructure that may be needed to mitigate or overcome some forms of climate change, many developing regions could have trouble adapting.
Thus, the core question might not be how costly will renewable energy be for Africa and other developing regions, but rather, how costly will not be using renewable energy be? And the answer to that is surely off the charts.
Thankfully, renewables technology has rapidly become far cheaper than anyone expected, eliminating the hard questions many countries were facing about how to balance the needs of their people with that of the environment. Both questions now point to the same answer: use renewable energy.