High population growth and rapid urbanisation continue to put pressure on energy needs in Tanzania.
At the same time, energy development has not been keeping pace with the surging demand. This is creating an energy crisis because the resources keep dwindling while demand is rising sharply.
Rapid expansion and a construction boom in cities like Dar es Salaam, for example, have seen more energy consumed than ever before while exerting pressure on supply.
Charcoal use in the country, too, currently stands at 2.4 million tonnes per year, according to researchers. Prof Jumanne Maghembe, Tourism and Natural Resources minister has been quoted as saying that nearly 370,000 hectares of forest are cleared annually for various purposes ranging from expanding agriculture land, to logging and charcoal making.
It was on this basis that Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa urged Tanzanians to reduce the use of charcoal as a primary source of energy. As the Premier made this call to the citizens, affordability of energy sources like electricity and gas remains out of reach for the majority of people.
So far, less than 30 per cent of homes in the country are connected to electricity. Households using gas for cooking are few.
This is explained by findings of a report by the National Forest Monitoring and Assessment which says that 90 per cent of the population of the Tanzanian Mainland use fuelwood. That means low-income Tanzanians will continue depending on fuelwood for many years to come. This will be happening at the cost of forests.
Developing energy-serving solutions
One of the measures would be investing in innovation so as to develop technologies that lead to efficient energy use. This may include developing affordable stoves that consume less charcoal or wood. This may also be extended to gas stoves that are both affordable and efficient, so that domestic energy use would migrate to gas.
The government should continue investing in power generation (currently at 1,754MW) while at the same time addressing shortcomings in the distribution system.
Ongoing power production projects need to be fast-tracked so as to ensure there is no power shortage. Through the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), the government needs to focus on developing electricity generation using other sources other than water and gas.
Reports have indicated that there is a huge potential of using wind in Same (Kilimanjaro Region) and Singida Region. So, if investment is directed into developing wind farms, then country would generate even more electricity than what it does currently.
Instead of raising power tariffs, Tanesco must find ways of financing its major improvement and expansion projects so as not to place a heavier burden on the end users. It must be recalled that one of the factors that prevent most citizens from connecting their houses to electricity is the initial cost. The same applies to use of gas stoves. The initial cost is beyond the reach of most households in the country. As a result, people continue using charcoal and wood as sources of energy. The country must, therefore, strike a balance somewhere to protect the environment but at the same time providing efficient energy sources to the people.
It’s high time the country reviewed its energy needs in an effort to put in place measures for sustainable use of alternative sources while protecting the environment and expanding the customer base.
Credit: All Africa