Renewable energy requires renewable vision [Archives:2004/732/Viewpoint]

April 26 2004

The recent visit of the German Environment Minister, Mr Jurgen Trittin, to Yemen has shed light on a reality that we all need to look into and begin analyzing carefully. World countries, including Yemen, are on the brink of an energy crisis if renewable energy sources are not exploited and used.
In the visit, which was part of preparatory stages for the upcoming International Conference for Renewable Energies to be held in Bonn in June 2004, Trittin said that most countries of the world are focusing less than desired and needed on alternative means of energy production and supply, which in turn is a serious lag behind the necessities of humans everywhere.
By 2050, according to Trittin, countries must take at least 50% of their energy from renewable energy sources just to be able to cope with the demand. This in turn brings greater concern about countries like Yemen, which suffer from extremely poor energy supply compared to the region and the world.
In a meeting with Mr. Trittin, I tried to inquire about what this conference could bring to Yemen, and how we, as Yemenis, can use it to minimize the increasing electricity shortages and lack of sources in rural areas.
His answer was straight-forward and convincing. We must first of all, as a country and people, formularize a strategy for reforming energy in rural areas. This could be the first step that would lead us to the appropriate way in which we can proceed. Launching and carrying out this strategy will now be carried out with support from the German government with a budget of Euro 1 million.
However, before we can even think of starting our own reforms, we must bring about a revolution in awareness and renew our vision so we can begin seeing the future not only in terms of a year or two, but the next 50 or 100 years.
I was quite impressed to know that current Minister of Water and Environment, Mr. Mohamed Al-Iryani, has indeed installed a new solar energy system for heating water. This is a vision worth admiring and respecting.
However, there is yet a very long way to go before we can have electricity reservation measures applied in a similar fashion. Realizing that electrical water heaters are among the most inefficient electrical appliances, the Ministry should be supported by government and private sector bodies to spread awareness of the use of such solar systems to replace traditional heaters.
Jordan is a good example of how a government with vision and a public with awareness can indeed make use of alternative energies. Most houses in Amman, for instance, depend on solar energy to heat water. We in Yemen are quite behind Jordan in this respect. Nevertheless, there is always an opportunity to catch up.
On the other hand, skills in building, installing, and maintaining such solar energy providing mechanisms must be enhanced to cope with the expected demand in the near future if Yemeni citizens shift to this new energy source. That should also be taken into consideration.
Just as Mr. Trittin was talking about the different alternative energy resources and how the world will have to use them in the future, it came to my mind that we in Yemen, and also in the developing world, must also have renewable vision, which could help us reevaluate the situation and look into the future in a more imaginative manner.
If we are suffering now from tremendous energy shortages in major cities, then with population growth of 3.7%, I cannot imagine how we will cope with the situation in 10 years or so without a vision that can see the future and work for it today.