By Philip Ayuen Dot, Juba, South Sudan
Wednesday Oct 28, 2020 (SS24News)
Globally, energy is acquired from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal which contribute to 95% of the energy used. Countries such as the United States have more than 80% of their energy being from fossil fuels which produce a lot of greenhouse gases and thus lead to problems such as climate change (global warming). These fossil fuels are what is known as the non-renewable sources of energy. They are finite and put countries in compromising positions as they fight for oil from other countries.
The world is slowly moving away from non-renewable energy sources due to their adverse effects on the environment and the fact that countries are now depleting their fossil fuel resources and are instead embracing renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power, solar and geothermal among others. The leading countries on this front are Iceland, Norway and Kenya which rely on renewable energy sources a 100%, 98% and 70% respectively.
This leads us to South Sudan that though is an oil producing country has still not connected a national grid on the same to harness the resource for local countrywide energy use.
As per world Bank reports, only 5.1% of the population has access to electricity with a majority being in the urban centers such as Juba. Over 70% of the population relies on biomass such as wood fuel, charcoal, crop residue and cow dung for their energy requirements.
Although wood fuel is considered a renewable energy resource due to the fact that forests can be replanted and grow back, it has some serious concerns. The first one is that people are cutting down more trees than the number of trees being planted.
This not only means that the resource is depleted, but deforestation causes a lot of havoc on the environment starting with increased incidences of flash floods, to a loss of habitat for wild animals, to climate change. All these things are already affecting the communities living in lowlands in the country.
The second concern for using wood as a major energy source is in the efficiency. Most people are still using the traditional open fires that require firewood to cook. This method utilizes more firewood than the specially designed kitchens and jikos that are gaining traction in other sub-Saharan countries.
These new cooking methods still use firewood but use less than a quarter of firewood mass required in the traditional system. And the ones that use charcoal ensure that it is well burnt and the energy conserved thus still using less charcoal.
As a developing country, it is imperative to start off with using renewable energy instead of taking the longer route of using non-renewable energy sources first, damaging the environment irreparably and finally coming back to renewable energy sources, the way developed countries did. Furthermore, South Sudan has so much untapped potential for renewable energy sources.
Hydropower is one of the country’s biggest potential. As the River Nile flows through South Sudan. It presents many opportunities for hydropower generation from large plants to small hydroelectric plants.
Existing potential hydroelectric power plants include(with projected output in megawatts, MW): Fula (1,080 MW), Bedden (720 MW), Lekki (420 MW), Shukoli (250MW) and Juba barrage (120 MW). The government is also investing in small hydro as a more efficient means of enabling access to electricity to the many communities scattered around the country. Small hydro plants may generate up to 40 MW of electricity.
This is definitely an energy resource that can provide affordable and consistent energy to most of the country’s population if well tapped.
Wind is another renewable energy source that the country can utilize. The potential for wind energy lies in rural electrification where distributed systems can easily be utilized.
According to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) the wind power density is between 285 and 380 W/m2 which implies good resources for wind power generation. There will be need to attract private investment to develop this sector.
Another energy potential source is geothermal. The location of South Sudan in the vicinity of the East African Rift System is a high indicator of geothermal potential which the government would be keen to exploit. The country had partnered with the Kenyan Geothermal Development Company (GDC) to carry out an assessment of its geothermal potential.
And finally, one of the most loved renewable energy sources that the country can take advantage of is Solar. South Sudan has about 8 hours of sunshine per day with a solar potential 436 W/m2/year. This can be successfully used to support electrification in the rural areas.
Currently, solar energy is being used to supply more than 40,000 households to power a variety of devices that run on solar power such as electricity lighting, phone charging and radios. There are plans to increase the use of the country’s high potential for solar energy to meet energy demand.
Thus clearly South Sudan is not lost for options when it comes to getting its energy from renewable energy sources. They are in plenty and only require the government’s will, investors, community’s participation and stakeholder involvement. It is on this note that one of the major goals of South Sudan Environmental Advocates (SSEA) is to see the increased uptake of renewable energy, both in households and on the national grid.
Our lines are thus open for the investors in this field, communities that would want to efficiently utilize wood mass and any other interested party in making the country green in its energy use.
The author is the Founder and Executive director of South Sudan environmental Advocates (SSEA) and can be reach via his