188.8.131.52. Mitigation and Adaptation: Response Options
The suggestion that a "solar revolution" (Kane, 1996) may replace the temporary
fossil economy is rather simplistic. For African countries-which have yet to
develop their infrastructure significantly and their basic industries-the need
for centralized energy systems will continue for some time, although it may
coexist with advances in solar installations. Besides this general transition,
Africa's centralized energy systems-including hydroelectric, coal, and oil thermal
systems-will need to benefit from cleaner, more efficient energy-conversion
technologies. This transition will be based on autonomous efficiency improvements
in the short to medium term, but Africa will not be in a position to drive trends
toward such improvements, due to economic and technical trends.
Wind energy is a widely suggested option, based on average wind speeds of 5.8
m/s (Kane, 1996). Unless technologies are developed to generate electricity
at lower speeds, the windmill option will remain limited in its application
because wind speeds in the region generally are low, averaging 3-5 m/s.
New and renewable energy sources, however, offer other benefits in addition
to being alternatives to large hydropower and thermal power generation systems.
These alternative energy sources will generate more jobs overall in the economy.
According to Kane (1996), these jobs will be high-quality jobs, mainly in systems
design. For this reason, this benefit may remain limited in Africa because the
continent lags other regions in the development of new technologies such as
windmills, solar photovoltaics (PVs), and biogas digesters, which have been
spearheaded in China and India. African countries should take immediate steps,
with external support, to rectify this deficiency.
Energy efficiency improvements-which, in Africa, will have to be autonomous
in most cases-offer a significant response option. Energy wastage in Africa
is quite high; in some cases, savings of up to 40% can be achieved. In the electricity
sector, total system losses sometimes exceed 30% in situations where universal
standards are below 8%, including some systems in Africa (Davidson, 1992). Reducing
these inefficiencies will provide a demand-side option for electricity supply.
Demand-side management options, however, need strong support programs to overcome
a number of implementation barriers.
With regard to industry, it has been suggested that "much of industry will
have to mimic nature, reusing and recycling every chemical that it uses in cyclical
processes." This approach implies "shifting to sustainable industries" (Kane,
1996). Before the current climate change debate, this strategy entailed using
renewable materials for industrial raw materials-such as natural fibers as opposed
to finite resources such as minerals. However, reduced productivity in agriculture-which
is the current base for industrial raw materials in most African countries-limits
the usefulness of this suggestion.
Small-scale mills have been suggested as ideal for developing countries because
they could achieve recycling of resources and greater efficiencies (Kane, 1996).
It would be more efficient, for example, to install small-scale mills in dispersed
locations around the country to reduce the cost of moving scrap to large, centrally
located mills. In Africa, this approach would be a relevant option to reduce
the decline or depletion rate for natural ores and to disperse job opportunities
around the country. Steel production is significant in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and
South Africa; plants in these countries, however, are traditional large-scale
installations. The introduction of small-scale mills could enable the industry
to spread to other locations across the continent.