Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Energy is a priority item on the global agenda

Energy has become an increasingly important subject in the global perspective today. A number of considerations come into play, some of which are, increasing levels of pollution in the atmosphere, rising ambient temperatures across the world as a result of carbon dioxide and other emissions, growing manufacturing that is responsible for the pollution, the search for better methods of raising useful energy outputs per unit of primary energy, desire to cut down on use of traditional sources of energy that cause high levels of pollution, increasing use of renewable energies that are more environment friendly, and reverting to more energy efficient lifestyles beside a host of other considerations.

explosion in consumption

Source: http://preview.tinyurl.com/n9857gc

Old though this chart/graph is, it is instructive in showing the ‘explosion in consumption’ from the 1940s or thereabout.

As to the fuels used, the 2004 chart by British Petroleum of 2004 is instructive:

We can see that Africa in particular had, and, seems to continue to be a very small consumer of the primary sources in question – oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear energy and hydropower.

A more recent picture up to 2010 from the Wikipedia encyclopedia shows a continued growth pattern, especially in Asia and Oceania, with big consumers including China and India, see graphs below:

Source: Wikipedia - World primary energy consumption in quadrillion Btu by region.svg

World outlook
Starting with the seventies, oil prices started to rise sharply. Being a major resource for energy in the world then, many users felt the need for finding redress in order to remain competitive and make products that could keep a meaningful share in the marketplace.

The quest for energy efficiency became more relevant, resulting in more opportunities for manufacturing concerns to seek services of providers. Many companies sought improvements with relatively short ‘payback periods’. This led to the adoption of internal personnel dedicated to seeking energy savings before resorting to experts for more detailed reviews. Financial institutions were brought on board, funding improvements to the benefit of all parties.

Alongside the above developments, efforts at exploiting renewable sources of energy were beefed up. Coal and oil have been dominant resources, but, with higher pollution to the environment. As such, the ever-abundant sunshine and wind for instance caught the sight of researchers in the quest for enhancing their share in the energy mix.

In parallel, new technologies are constantly sought where greater energy efficiency is achieved or more environment friendly resources are used.

Saving the environment
Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions have increased significantly, with a 70 percent increase between 1970 and 2004. The picture for fossil fuels alone is represented by the following line-graph:

Global Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil-fuels 1990-2008
Source: Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres (2010). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2010.

Realizing the growing rate at which the environment is threatened, the world community is busy devising strategies to cut on pollution so that the world can be habitable for future generations.

Such international forums as the United Nations have put in place entities to work toward the realization of these noble objectives.

Efforts in developed countries
Many advanced countries have dedicated many efforts toward these causes. These have been across the entire spectrum. To mention a few, many such countries have been at the forefront of developing exploitation of renewable energies, improving efficiency across the board, evolving technological innovations and the like.

Creating a conducive framework
In facilitating the growth of efforts toward a safer environment, a number of schemes have been applied. These incentives include tax waivers, subsidies and like drives.
A very interesting one is one where a private generator for renewable energy is allowed to sell to the electricity grid at a tariff that ensures that they do not make a loss, even when such a tariff is above the normally set rate. That way, entrepreneurs are encouraged to continue to spearhead their efforts at tapping renewable energies to higher levels.

Consequences to date
The overall effect is very pleasing in several aspects. One, the once down-played renewable energies are now assuming center-stage in energy contribution.

Wind and solar resources have moved from small-time resources with negligible contribution to significant shares in the energy mix.

Many countries have set ambitious targets for the share of renewable in the energy mix. Germany has been quite ambitious and resolute, with a significant impact. United States of America (US) has seen big reductions in growth of carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to the government and private sector efforts.

Despite China remaining a significant generator of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, it is also amongst the leading countries in exploiting wind and solar.

As a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, it has one of the most significant incentive programs for solar adoption that are changing its ranking dramatically, starting with Tokyo.

Situation of less developed countries
It ought to be said that, the situation prevailing in that group of countries is a largely mixed one. In general, there has been less development versus increased consumption in general. We will briefly talk about a few of the pertinent issues.

Economies tend to be growing at much lower rates if at all, especially in these financially troubled times. Many of their industries are vested with old technologies, often rendering them uncompetitive. Much of the industry adds little value, with several exports as unprocessed or semi-processed agricultural products.

Many primary energy sources are the conventional forms of petroleum products and/or coal, even for processes for which the more developed countries are using more efficient technologies or other resources. On the other hand, several poor countries continue to predominantly use biomass, mostly for cooking. This is by the majority of the populations, to be found in rural areas, and, Uganda is not an exception.

While many developed countries have renewable energies contributing handsomely to grid electricity, a number of poorer countries continue to generate electricity using petroleum products.

These countries have on average higher population growth rates, putting more pressure on the resources available.

Despite the existence of several business development obstacles, incentives to the energy sector are limited or hard to get at times.

Need to address needs of energy sector
Judging from the above, there is indeed to seek ways and means of getting the poorer countries to strive to emulate the rest of the world on this important subject.

One way to start is through addressing an urgent need to start raising the consciousness of the communities in the less developed world about the need for energy matters.

There ought also to be some comparative analysis on the different activities, and, proposing strategies that can move us to higher levels of modern energy practices.

It is against such a background that this blog is initiated.

Check out our other forum
Apart from this effort on home ground, we are also blogging at http://empowernetwork.com/paulsagala/ and we invite you to see some of our efforts there.

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