Lack of commitment to clean energy funding

via Lack of commitment to clean energy funding – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 14, 2015

Clean energy access and demands appear to be in the overdrive and surprisingly overwhelming. The insatiable desire to shift from erratic supplies of energy by Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and its subsidiaries is having an impact to power-starved Zimbabweans.

Lack of commitment to clean energy funding

The noise about the desire to have new forms of energy installed is quite sporadic and rather hollow. What is lacking from the government ministers, officials, to private sector, civil society, media and individuals is to articulate who will be responsible for the funding of these new forms of energy. No one is willing to take responsibility and be accountable. Government as usual is a rabble-rouser, good at setting the agenda and then disappearing.

We live in a very complex and rather funny world with these funny creatures called politicians who never cease to amaze. One wonders what kind of people these individuals called politicians are . We are still waiting to find out, who will deliver the new energy services to the poor and low-income communities. It is the duty of the government to uplift these communities from energy-driven poverty. Are we going to witness the approved companies who are in business for profits leading the way by overcharging and reaping-off the poor in the name of sustainability? Or we are going to see government, as usual, dragging its feet until 2018 in order to donate free solar panels to the rural communities. These clean forms of energy sources are already in the country, but are beyond reach of even the working class. If the green energy ventures are business driven or profit-based then, chances are high that clean energy will remain a pipe dream and a myth.

The green energy technologies have great potential to deliver alternative clean and cheaper energy to the poor, but how are they going to acquire these gadgets in the first place? The government is talking, but it is not committing itself on how it is going to fund these initiatives. Banks as usual, are quiet and non-committal, the private sector is saying the economy is stupid while the donors and the government are strange bed fellows. It is the deserving poor communities that have been caught in this vicious cycle.

It is common knowledge that the government, as people oriented as it should be, needs to know its targets and beneficiaries.

The government or the approved NGOs need to begin with pilot projects for a start in order to see the viability and sustainability of these initiatives. Local NGOs who have been working with the rural communities since independence can seize this opportunity as they are already aware of the vulnerability status in these communities. They have worked with communities in projects such as reforestation, conservation farming, child supplementary feeding and many other community-based initiatives.

The poor are always at the receiving end. Memories are still fresh on how the majority of the poor lost out at the Basic Education Assistance Module (Beam) project where undeserving people benefitted. Sustainability is not about giving handouts, it is about empowering the poor through small-scale project ventures. The poor need to come up with income-generating projects so they can be self-sufficient and be responsible for improving their livelihoods.

Small-scale projects that would see them utilising green energy technologies for sustainable development are nutritional gardens, small-scale irrigation schemes, sewing, confectionery, ICTs and many others that can change their standard of living. It is the duty of the government to build energy markets for the low
income communities as well as eradicating poverty and hunger at the same time protecting the environment, and green energy technologies are required for this.

In its attempts to engage into these sustainable development programmes, government should be aware of the pitfalls that it experienced due to its failure to achieve health for all by the year 2000, the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap), the failure to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as the certain and inevitable failure in the making for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this regard government can be forgiven that although it failed, it was not alone in this case as it is the United Nations and multilateral financial institutions that always plan to fail many nations.

All being said here is that, solar panels are going to alleviate, mostly, erratic power supplies while solar pumps are going to replace diesel and petrol pumps as well as generators. Solar cookers, heaters and refrigerators are going to be there, so are chargers, incubators and a variety of many other solar powered gadgets. All these need money and even if they are to be bought, they must be within reach and sustainable in their prices. Dealing with the erratic Zesa and possibly Zinwa will soon be history.

This entails the end of Hwange Coal and Thermal Power Station, to be replaced by solar grids. There won’t be any more explorations for oil, coal deposits and gas. Go solar, go solo. Welcome to the world of utopia.

Whatever the government is planning to do in this regard, the question always remains, who will fund these programmes? While the government may not want to commit itself and be accountable, it continues to be highly suspicious of NGOs especially the international ones.

Therefore, is there going to be any sustainability on the part of the government or it is the poverty levels that are going to be perpetuated and sustained.

Government should avoid a situation of sustaining poverty, where the poor will remain marginalised and forgotten. But history has it that, government has failed to realise its own commitments and goals it has been setting for many years. If they are going to succeed in this regard, then there shall be light everywhere and we shall all sing hallelujah.

●Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: