The global energy demand continues to rise at an unprecedented rate. An industry report, titled Global Energy Outlook 2019: The Next Generation of Energy, has predicted that the world’s energy consumption, mainly fossil fuels, will accelerate 20-30% or more through 2040 and beyond sans aligned, multilateral and efficient climate policies. The study has credited the rapid population boom, especially at the base-of-the pyramid (BoP), and economic progress as major demand drivers.
The long-term use of fossil fuels, however, is not an option for a community that is racing against time to transition to a green economy. It has been noted that fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide when burned, causing air pollution and other climate challenges. Over one-third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by burning fossil fuels to generate power. Another contributing factor is rapid uncontrolled deforestation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly caused by rural communities to produce charcoal for cooking.
Societies are now turning to clean electricity resources to effectively address the energy demand while protecting the environment and supporting sustainable development. The global solar energy industry has gained remarkable momentum, with experts forecasting its exponential expansion in the coming years, in particular in frontier markets around the globe ́s southern belt.
Figures released by Allied Market Research have shown that the solar energy industry worldwide will reach USD 422 billion by 2022, up from USD 86 billion in 2015. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.2% from 2016 to 2022.
Access to and the productive use of solar energy constitute a great enabler for many communities, especially in rural, off-grid areas, where there is no feasible alternative to solar, across the globe. Solar is adaptive and modular and can be applied for on-grid as well as decentralised off-grid solutions. It can power anything from watt to gigawatt. It helps transform major sectors such as agriculture, health, education, administration and communication, while at the same time meeting the all-encompassing sustainability agenda. In terms of job creation, the industry is expected to provide significant income-generating opportunities to many people, in particular at the BoP, where solar energy empowers productive use, thus increasing economic output of rural off-grid communities without harming impact on the environment.
Furthermore, producing abundant and competitively priced solar energy has little to zero carbon emissions, thus helping protect the environment from pollution.
The aforementioned are, amongst others, just some of the impressive benefits of solar solutions that are essential to fast-track the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Without further delay, we need to embrace the idea that solar-powered technologies and solutions are the way to go, if we are to become successful in our aspiration to build a low-carbon, sustainable future for all. We need to embark on initiatives with positive and lasting triple bottom line (socio-economic-ecologic) impact, consistently assuring not only the highest quality but, equally important, environmental and economic sustainability.
Take, for example, the use of solar- powered productive use outlets, dubbed as E-HUBBs. E-HUBBs can provide energy and connectivity for productive use, powering mini-clinics, schools, agriculture processing appliances, commercial cooling, financial inclusion and internet cafés as well as offering water purification. They can deliver a constant supply of electricity to local entrepreneurs acting as a B2B micro- grid. E-HUBBs are just among the many innovative initiatives available to serve BoP communities in their economic growth path whilst protecting the environment.
Pursuing solar-powered solutions is vital to the global green economy transition. Their implementation and adoption are also aligned with energy and resource efficiency policies critical to a shift to a sustainable future. More importantly, they are innovative and cost-effective. The opportunities are vast, and now is the time to embrace solar solutions when climate change has become an obvious threat to all of us.
Andreas Spiess is Co-Founder and Chairman, Solarkiosk Solutions.
CPI Industry accepts no liability for the views or opinions expressed in this column, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided here.