RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES BETTER TOOLS TO ACHIEVE THE
MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Adopted by the international community in 2000, the United Nations Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) outline specific development objectives to be achieved by 2015, including halving
the proportion of the world’s people living on less than $1 a day. Although energy is not
explicitly mentioned in any of the MDGs, there is a growing recognition that energy services play
a crucial role in development efforts and in the improvement of living conditions around the
Energy is one of several essential inputs to economic and social development. “Modern” energy
services—provided by liquid and gaseous fuels as well as electricity—can greatly assist societies
in reducing poverty and hunger and meeting the health, education, gender, and environmental
elements of the Millennium Development Goals.
Studies show that the share of overall energy use provided by modern fuels and electricity is
strongly correlated with per-capita income, life expectancy, literacy, and other indicators of
human development. International Energy Agency analysis suggests that if the MDG targets are
to be met, there is need to take new measures to extend the use of modern fuels to more than 700
million people from 2005 to 2015 and to provide electricity to the remaining half-billion people
projected to still lack it.
It is estimated that the minimum amount of modern energy needed annually to meet basic
cooking and lighting needs is 50 kgoe per capita. However, societies also need to educate
children, ensure good health and access to clean water, and provide energy for various productive
uses. It is therefore estimated that societies require 400 kgoe of energy per capita to fall safely
above the energy poverty line. “Energy Services for the Poor,” commissioned for the Millennium
Task Force on Poverty, calculates that achieving an increase in per-capita modern energy
consumption in developing countries from 50 kgoe to 500 kgoe will lead to a 50- percent
reduction in the number of people living in poverty.
Development efforts over the past 50 years have been hampered by the difficulty of providing
modern, commercial energy to the poor. The relatively high cost of modern fuels and electricity
for the poor, particularly in dispersed rural areas, has severely limited the ability to reach those
most in need.
The volatile and unpredictable price of fossil fuels has further exacerbated the problem of
insufficient energy development. By causing large budget and trade deficits, fossil fuels have also
undermined the ability of developing country governments to meet the developmental goals
RENEWABLE ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES (RETs)
Renewable energies are derived from very broad and diverse array of energy resources -
biomass, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, marine or ocean energy, as well as conversion
processes and applications - combustion, thermal, mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical,
photovoltaic processes. Renewable energy sources and technologies are extremely versatile
RETs have advanced quickly in recent years, and as their cost has declined and their reliability
has improved, they have emerged in some circumstances as a more affordable and practical
Renewable energy sources capture their energy means of providing essential energy services.
from existing flows of energy, from on-going natural processes, such as sunshine, wind, flowing
water, biological processes, and geothermal heat flows. RETs are the technologies that harness
these energy flows and turn them into energy services to meet the needs of individuals for heat,
light, power, transport, and electrical energy.
Depending on the scope and location RETs are classified as Grid-connected mostly Urban
developed RETs and Off-grid RETs normally rural developed or generated. Grid-connected renewable energy is contributing a growing share of power generation, while Off-
grid renewable energy-based systems make an important contribution in providing energy to rural
and sometimes urban areas.
There exist some developing community already using several RETs, including small-scale
biogas, hydro, wind, and solar, extensively to meet the needs of rural areas of the developing
world, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa
Some few developing countries are deploying advanced, large-scale renewable, including large-
hydro, geothermal, wind power, and biofuels, in much the way these technologies are used in
industrial nations. These grid-connected energy sources primarily meet the needs of the urban
middle class, by reducing overall dependence on fossil fuels they may improve general economic
conditions and thus help in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
ROLE OF RETs IN MEETING THE MDGS BY 2015
Renewable Energy Technologies reduce the risk of over-dependence on fossil fuels, risks that fall
disproportionately on the poor and undermine efforts to meet the MDGs. Apart from having
direct impact on future price increases in conventional fuels, RETs improve the balance of trade
and create new economic opportunities.
There is growing recognition that RETs can be a good investment, contributing to economic
growth and poverty alleviation at the local level. The following sections assess the potential of
renewable energy to contribute to each of the individual MDGs.
MDG 1: poverty and hunger
Target: To halve the number of people who suffer from hunger and whose income is less than $1
Cooking and Heating Fuel, Saving Time and Income
Around 80 percent of the expenditure on energy services by poor people is on fuel for cooking.
Studies show that the majority of the developing world’s poor spend 20 percent or more of their
monthly income to obtain wood and charcoal.
The recent UN-Energy report estimates that people spend up to five hours per day gathering fuel
wood in sub-Saharan Africa. In most of the cases, the girl child is most affected, as it is her
responsibility to travel long distances and collect the fuel wood.
By using the RETs to provide sustainable energy for cooking and space heating at low operating
costs, improved stoves and alternative fuels can reduce this drain on household income, while
freeing up time for education and income-generating activities.
Lighting, Communications, Refrigeration, and Conveniences
Electricity contributes directly to poverty reduction by human capacity empowerment, that is, by making it possible to engage in commercial activity and reducing unit costs. Indirect contributions to poverty alleviation may come in the form of free time for other productive activities, improved health and education, improved access to and supply of clean water, and reduced local environmental degradation.
RETs such as solar photovoltaic (PV), biogas digesters, small wind-electric turbines, and micro-
hydro systems are often ideal for providing electricity in rural areas, ranging from a few watts to thousands of watts, at a lower life-cycle cost than conventional alternatives such as dry cell batteries and generator sets. RETs can reduce the share of household income spent on lighting by replacing more-expensive conventional fuels. By making light more affordable and reliable, RETs also permit income generation beyond daylight.
Creating Opportunities for Income Generation
Rural poor spend a significantly greater proportion of their income on water than do the rich; the
RETs provide a local, price they pay water vendors is often ten times more than the tap price.
reliable, and safe drinking-water supply that can pay for itself over time and be maintained with savings from avoided fuel costs. Income can be generated directly through selling water. RETs
powered irrigation projects that pump water for farms, market gardens, and ranches have also demonstrated a positive impact on income generation, food production, livestock products, and access to nutrition.
RETs are already spurring industrial growth, creating jobs and business opportunities for the
urban and rural poor, boosting involvement of the local supply chain, and bringing in foreign direct investment, while also increasing access to global markets and trade
RETs also create value through their contribution to energy security, environmental sustainability,
and human health. Because renewable energy development can free up financing from oil production and consumption, there is great potential to contribute to new development initiatives.
MDG 2: Education
Target: Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.
In rural areas where conventional fuels are not affordable to the poor, RETs can make important contributions to education because a school without electricity, delivering quality education is a vast challenge as it means that schools can’t use the technologies central to modern education,
from computers to photocopiers. The most experienced and skilled teachers shy away from schools without electricity too. Hence Without good teachers and good technology resources, students predictably under-perform, drop out, and ultimately remain unemployed. Therefore Energy is necessary to bridge the technology and education gap to enable rural areas to become more economically sustainable, and to reverse the trend of migration from rural to urban areas.
The use of RETs to provide electricity in the home also frees time for education—home lighting
enables reading and studying beyond daylight it also provide opportunity to engage in income-
generating activities for longer hours, the extra earnings from which can be used towards school fees.
MDG 3: Gender Equality Target: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary levels of education.
It is estimated that 570 million households rely on traditional biomass for cooking, worldwide,
In most societies, especially rural representing almost one-third of the global population.
communities, it is women and girls who cook and spend time near the fire, and in developing countries they are typically exposed to very high levels of indoor air pollution. By providing clean energy for cooking through the use RETs it will significantly reduce the disproportionate health burden of indoor air pollution on women. Women in rural households typically devote 25 percent or more of total domestic labor to wood collecting, water collection etc all which prevent female from attending school and exposing them to so many environmental dangers and risks.
RETs can free women’s time from survival activities such as gathering fuel wood, fetching water,
cooking inefficiently, processing and hanging crops, and manual farming work, allowing them opportunities for education and enterprise development.
MDG4, 5, and 6: Health
Targets: Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.
Reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio.
Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Halt and begin to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
Studies from Asia, Africa, and the Americas have shown that indoor air pollution levels in households that rely on biomass fuel or coal are extremely high; and much of the disease burden is due to indoor air pollution and un-clean drinking water. There is consistent evidence that exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to acute lower respiratory infections in children under five and to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer (where coal is used) in adults.
According to World Health Report 2002, indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 1.6 million annual deaths and 2.7 percent of the global burden of disease, making it the second biggest environmental contributor to ill-health behind unsafe water and sanitation.
The use of RETs for cooking reduces exposure to indoor air pollution as well, improving health, similarly RET interventions will help achieve a significant reduction in child mortality.
MDG 7: Environmental sustainable
Targets: Integrate sustainable development into country policies and programs. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020.
Degraded ecosystems with a considerable amount of standing water and little natural control of invertebrate populations are ripe for high incidence of water and insect-borne disease.
The burning of fossil fuels and the cutting of forests are contributing to environmental degradation and climate change through GHG emission. And the burden of environmental
degradation falls disproportionately on developing countries that are limited in their capacity to respond to climate change and depend on environmentally sensitive activities such as agriculture.
Improving Water Quality
Water and sanitation are among the most important determinants of public health and rank at the top of the World Health Organization’s list of primary health care components. The control of
endemic and emerging diseases is naturally linked to an intact ecosystem’s ability to mediate
climate change, mitigate water quality and distribution, and provide alternative hosts for existing and emerging disease vectors.
By producing energy for pumping and sterilization, however, RETs can provide locally reliable and safe water supplies that are essential for sanitation and reduce time spent gathering water, thus increasing time available to engage in income-generating activities.
Reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Lowering greenhouse gas emissions is particularly relevant to the developing world, as climate change threatens to disrupt the weakest economies and disadvantage the poorest people. Sea-level rise associated with projected increases in temperature could displace tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas. With climate change, the weakest economies will also be faced with new stresses such as resisting the spread of vector-borne diseases.
MDG specifies energy efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions, and proportion of forested land as indicators of environmental sustainability.
RETs can replace traditional biomass, thereby contribute to energy efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, furthering the goal of environmental sustainability.
There it can be concluded that renewable energy technologies can meet needs that conventional approaches cannot. It can also provide comparable services more readily than conventional services, and at comparable costs. An energy technology’s cost per unit and its ability to provide
essential energy services are the most important indicators of its suitability for poverty alleviation and achieving the United nation Millennium Development Goals.
But the major challenge is how to create a policy framework that allows renewable energy to be introduced where it makes long-term economic sense, and to allow poor countries to benefit from the declining cost curves that characterize renewable energy markets in many industrial countries.
As it has been with various global developmental campaigns. The issue of renewable energy requires full public and private sectors participation and commitment. Although energy is principally a private business in most countries, providing energy access for rural areas has traditionally been considered an essential public good for which governments are primarily responsible. Therefore Governments should increase investment on RETs, drive supportive policy development and integrate the energy generated into electrification plans for rural off-grid energy-service delivery.
Through Private sector involvement, Innovative financing mechanisms, particularly when integrated with targeted concessional funding, private sector can help to make renewable energy technologies more attractive for commercial funding and more accessible to customers.
Thus renewable-energy technologies and services are powerful tools for advancing the Millennium Development Goals, especially when considered in a multi-sectoral approach, and properly incorporated into the existing global development activities relating to poverty, health, education, environment and entrepreneurship.
By Shehu Ibrahim Khaleel
Head, Electrical Unit
Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital