Change climate & new sources of energy in Yemen [Archives:2002/37/Health]

September 9 2002

Because Yemen signed the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is supposed to prepare its initial National Communication soon. This is considered the first step in the actual implementation of the UNFCCC in Yemen.
Yemen has high susceptibility to natural disasters due to the continuous tectonic processes that formed the mountains of Yemen. The high vulnerability of the mountain ecosystem creates many difficulties for the economic use of territory and requires constant realization of complex protective measures, especially when it is augmented by possible climate change. Due to its geographical location with respect to the equator, Yemen is located in arid and semi arid zones, which make the country quite considerably vulnerable to climate change. Redistribution of precipitation and increasing frequency and intensity of drought with the possible increase in air temperature in the country entail negative consequences, particularly in water resource management and agriculture.
The level of awareness of the climate change phenomenon and its effects on our lives is unfortunately almost inexistent in Yemen. There are ongoing efforts to gather accurate information on climate change and make it available to policy makers and the public. However, more financial and technical assistance is required to support building capacity for meaningful climate change research. Building national capacity in researching climate change is likely to create more interest in, and ensure meaningful debate on the issue of climate change in Yemen.
Proper data organization is vital to address climate change issues. There is need to centralize all climate change related data. The location of such an important data bank should rest with the Environmental Protection Authority, the focal point of UNFCCC in Yemen.
There are significant financial constraints in conducting longitudinal or even medium-scale scientific research (e.g., gathering field data). Such constraints adversely affect the construction, validity and reliability of national studies. Although the so far findings are totally realistic, only three studies were conducted over selected sites to assess the negative impact of climate change. There is great need for further understanding of its likely impact and adaptation at a national level for sectors covered during the preparation of the initial National Communication using a more integrated approach. More comprehensive research is required to complete work on impact and adaptation for sectors partially analyzed during the preparation of the initial National Communication as well as other specified sectors not covered yet, but are likely to be effected by climate change, such as human health, desertification and land degradation.
Impact assessment of climate change in these sectors should be done on a priority basis. Sufficient funding is needed to create an information pool and make it available to the appropriate software programs for data analysis, documentation and dissemination, especially as climate change is a new subject in Yemen. Expertise in research related to climate change is important and Yemen requires developing its scientific research capacity in various related disciplines.
The few studies conducted for preparation of this initial National Communication was an indication of possible areas where further work is needed to be done. Moreover, gaps in information for these sectors were reported.
Yemen’s natural system and economy generally suffer from the mounting pressure of a tremendously high population growth rate, limited natural resources and other economic shortcomings. All these contribute to making Yemen highly vulnerable to climate change. Impacts on key socio-economic sectors, water resources, agriculture and coastal zone resources have been identified and assessed over their respective area.
As in many Arab countries, water has a high social, economic and political value, yet the most vulnerable sector to climate change is water resources in terms of quantity and quality.
Renewable Energy Resources
Yemen enjoys a very diverse natural environment and physical structure; mountainous, coastal, plateau, desert regions and islands, and consequently a very diverse climate. It belongs to the Sunbelt regions of earth.
There is large potential for solar and wind energy use in Yemen. Furthermore, there is a large quantity of agricultural waste that could be used for electricity production for domestic purposes. These renewable energy resources are described in more detail below.
a) Solar energy potential
In Yemen, the average annual sunshine hours exceed 3,000 hours/year and average annual global solar insulation is more than 2,200 kw per square meter per year.
The country has the capacity to make solar electricity generated directly from sunlight using solar cell modules (Photovoltaic modules) that could replace small applications of petroleum-fueled generators, grid power and even dry cell batteries. This can especially be an alternative for the power supply to rural and remote areas for solar home systems, small industries and institutions, telecommunications, health centers vaccine refrigeration and lighting, water pumping and other uses.
The potential for using solar thermal energy in Yemen is tremendous. The high solar insulation and sunshine hours make it possible for the country to exploit all possible solar thermal energy applications such as solar water heaters, solar crop dryers, solar cookers, salt production by evaporating ponds, sea water desalination, solar refrigerators and air conditioners and solar thermal power plants.
Solar thermal power plants are those plants in which solar radiation is converted into thermal energy by means of solar concentrators. This is carried out by a working fluid through a conventional process of electricity generation. Since such plants are based on the concentration of solar radiation to achieve high temperatures necessary for the thermo-dynamic power plant process, their application areas are restricted to regions with high solar radiation like Yemen. Unlike photovoltaic power plants, very large amounts of electricity (in the mega watt range) can be generated by means of solar thermal power plants. Three concepts of solar thermal power plants are now well known and established such as parabolic operated through power plants, solar tower power plants and dish/sterling systems (Al-Sakaf, 1998). Sites with high insulation level, especially high direct solar radiation, reduce the amount of fossil fuel to be consumed for a given operation strategy of the plant. There are many potential sites for the application of solar thermal energy in Yemen, either for large-scale electricity generation or decentralized power supply (Al-Sakaf, 1999).
b) Wind energy potential
Yemen has a long coastal strip of more than 2,500 kms with a width of 30-60 kms along the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. Average annual wind speeds measured at 10 m height exceed 28.8 km/hour at most of the coastal areas. Hence, there is great potential for wind energy conversion at sites on the coastal strip, in addition to the offshore area. There is also great wind energy potential on Yemeni islands and inland hills and mountains.
Wind energy converters can efficiently meet the growing electricity demand in Yemen while providing a number of benefits. It is a free and widely available fuel source with no air, soil or water pollution and is based on a continuously developing technology. Advancements in wind energy technology have led in recent years to economic feasibility and competitiveness of wind energy-based electricity generation in comparison with conventional power generation.
Stand-alone or hybrid wind energy systems (solar and wind) for rural electrification, water pumping, sea water desalination and wind power injection into isolated power supply systems as well as large-scale grid-connected electricity generation through wind farms could be the choice of the Yemeni power sector in future, given the appropriate framework conditions.
c) Biomass potential
Yemen is an agricultural country with a large amount of waste from agriculture and breeding products having a huge biomass potential, which can be utilized gasification for electricity generation and/or cooking, especially in rural areas.
In conclusion, it is about time that Yemen focuses on further research about climate change, and how it could affect the different aspects of life. At the same time pay great attention to ideas and means to use new and different energy producing mechanisms for the welfare of the country and its coming generations.