Thursday, May 6, 2021

Botswana could learn a lot from Germany’s renewable project

Frequent power water supply cuts continue to cripple the Botswana economy and make the life very difficult for ordinary citizens. The persistent collapse of the Morupule B power plant and the North South Water Carrier are now a puzzle for many Batswana, who have so far not been given any convincing reasons as to why the nation’s most expensive infrastructure projects are failing. Meanwhile, emission of green house gases into the atmosphere will no doubt compromise the nation’s endeavor of reaching the international target of reducing industrial temperatures by two degrees Celsius.

Equally nerve-wrecking is the unemployment situation in the country. So disturbing is the situation that government’s latest initiatives to address the matter have almost always misfired. Meanwhile, Germany, a nation that enjoys close diplomatic ties with Botswana, has made tremendous progress in this regard, in the process adopting landmark green energy initiatives and creating employment for its citizens. 20 years later, the Federal Republic of Germany’s renewable energy project has created 120 000 jobs. The country started the project in 1990 and when a new government took over, the industry was given facelift after a ‘green law’ was passed.

This came to light during a panel discussion at the Climate Change Office in Berlin at which panelists included Joachim Hein, from the Federation of German Industries, Dr.Christian Redl of Agora Energiewende, Tara Nitz of German Chemical Industry Association and Andreas Kreamers, founding Director of Ecologic Institute. In a brief interview with The Telegraph just after the panel discussion, Kreamers pointed out the fact that the 120 000 jobs that were created include highly trained scientists, engineers and technicians who maintain the wind turbines together with other manual workers who are employed in farms that produce biomass.

“Most of the beneficiaries are in the country side because renewable energy is generated at the farms,” said Kreamers.

He added that Germans want clean energy, and a lot of them want to produce it themselves. The Renewable Energy Act guarantees priority grid access to all electricity generated from renewables and is designed to produce reasonable profits. In 2013, more than half of investments in renewables were made by small investors. On the other hand, large corporations have invested relatively little. The switch to renewables has greatly strengthened small and midsize businesses, and it has empowered local communities and their citizens to generate their own renewable energy. Across Germany, Kreamers said, a rural energy revolution is underway. Communities are benefiting from new jobs and increasing tax revenues, which has become even more important after the debt crisis in the euro zone.

It emerged through contributions by Dr Redl that the German can-do attitude is based on the experience over the last two decades, when renewables matured much more quickly, become more reliable and much cheaper than expected. The share of renewable electricity in Germany rose from six percent to nearly 25 percent in only ten years. On sunny and windy days, solar panels and wind turbines now increasingly supply up to half the country’s electricity demand, which no one expected just a few years ago. Recent estimates suggest that Germany will once again surpass its renewable electricity target and have more than 40 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. Furthermore, many German research institutes and the government and its agencies have run the numbers and developed sound scenarios for a renewable economy. Panelists unanimously expressed the importance of regional integration in executing projects of this magnitude, thus emphasizing the role of the European Union, headed by a German institute is playing in promoting the renewable energy usage in Southern Africa. The research project is called the Network of Energy Excellence for Development (NEED).

The partnership research comprises Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Polytechnic of Namibia School of Engineering, Okavango Research Institute (ORI) University of Botswana, University of Zambia and the Tecnishe Hocheschule Ingolstadt (THi) Institute of new Energy Systems-a German Institution that coordinates the project. A consultation workshop was held by the institutions’ representatives in February this year at Boipuso Hall, Gaborone, Botswana, whereupon a BIUST Professor, James Katende explained in an interview that, “The central goal of NEED is to establish research network in the field of Renewable Energy Technologies (RET) through created structures for the development of technical knowhow, to interlink relevant stakeholders and to foster awareness and the willingness to take sustainable action for deployment of RETs on political level in the target countries.”

Prof. Katende further highlighted that of central importance is the following fields of action whose major aim is to shape the target region’s roadmap for transition from conventional to renewable energy supply: development of dual study program, harmonization of industry standards, pooling of research activities in the field of RET and the development of two model energy concepts for a remote dryland and wetland area. The project team is intended initially to function as a research network, but is subsequently required to evolve into a more extensive network within Southern Africa. Each of the institutes is responsible for at least one work package of the NEED package.
“The Tecnische Hocheschule Ingolstadt as a project coordinator offers support in terms of technology and management and takes care of the network itself and ensures knowledge transfer to and between the project partners and local stakeholders,” he said.

The Namibia Polytechnic is tasked with coordinating Dual Study Programs. The program aims to enhance practical education for (RET) as part of the academic formation. The lack of well-educated scientists, engineers and technologists with RET knowledge is regarded as an obstacle to the wider implementation of RETs. NEED is of the premise that a step forward in a practical higher education shall be realized through a training concept not only taking into account theoretical knowledge transfer, but also hands-on training to reduce the lack of technological capacities and inexperienced practical work force.

“BIUST coordinates the standardization framework for RETs and technical directives. A focus will be put on the harmonization of industry standards as certain standards exist but are not compatible across national borders-a potential obstacle for the wide-spread deployment of RET in the region. The Okavango Research Institute- a part of the University of Botswana coordinates research on fossil free wetlands while the University of Zambia coordinates research strategies, which aims at the acceleration of research in RET, appropriate to indigenous energy resources. Research strategies are prepared in cooperation with relevant stakeholders and shall be anchored in national research policies, so that in future projects on RET will be rolled out that were previously not considered,” said Prof Katende.

He further highlighted that the NEED project focuses on national policy, education, and research institutions and local structures and stakeholders that will profit from the integration of RET in local policies.

“For instance, the Private Sector will benefit from the availability of well-educated young scientists, while local communities will profit from professional work force in the field of RET and, in the long term, from an increase of secure energy,” Prof Katende said.

He explained that one core element of the NEED project is the formation of a network of energy excellence, encompassing all types of stakeholders related to RET in order to join efforts and generate synergies to promote the use of renewable energies in Southern Africa.

“Therefore you are welcome to be part of the network so as to share your thoughts and ideas-no matter if you are part of a government institution, a small or medium sized company in the field of RET, an energy related corporation, an expert on renewable energy technologies or private person,” he concluded.

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