Tanzania, found in East Africa, borders Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Tanzania is endowed with lots of resources and is often referred to as “the land of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Zanzibar”.
Tanzania, though being rich in terms of resources remains very poor economically. Energy poverty like other forms of poverty is visible throughout the country. Over 85 percent of the total population (i.e. approximately 55 million people) depend on biomass for cooking and other domestic needs. Even in areas where grid connected power is available, black outs are common.
The need for power has led Tanzania to invest in hydropower, gas, coal and diesel to generate electricity for its population. Through such investments , Tanzania has experienced the negative impacts of big power producing projects in terms of environmental degradation (example coal mining in south west Tanzania), biodiversity loss (example the wild extinction Kihansi Spray Toads due to Kihansi HEP project), injustices to communities (example the gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam) and threats to the world renowned protected area (example the detachment of Mkuju from Selous Game Reserve, the biggest protected area in Tanzania and a UNESCO World Heritage site for the intent to mine Uranium
While the aforesaid are events of the past, it’s worth mentioning Tanzania’s current move to produce power — the proposed 2000 MW hydropower project in the middle of the Selous Game Reserve. The proposed hydropower project is part of the government’s plan for Tanzania to become to middle income country by 2025.
The Selous project is terrifying as far as the management and governance of precious natural resources and biodiversity is concerned. The project is being advanced in secrecy with no regard for Tanzania’ legal and regulatory frameworks nor Tanzania’s commitment to the protection of international public goods and World Heritage. To date no public hearing has been held to discuss the EIA report for construction of the dam and power plant even when it has long been publicly known that over 100,000 people will be affected. Individuals and organizations protesting the move have been intimidated.
Similarly, the country is mining coal and planning to open coal fired power plants in western Tanzania. These moves are catastrophic for communities, ecosystems and the world.
As the world in increasingly waking up to the urgency of transition from fossil fuels and mega dams to clean energy, an obvious question is why Tanzania is not keeping its promise to protection of nature and people. Is Tanzania lacking clean energy alternatives? These and other questions have been answered many times before.
The fact is Tanzania has a number of energy options to produce power and fuel the economy while protecting our communities from pollution and displacement, and protecting planet earth from climate change, degradation and extinction.
Even more Tanzania’s energy options can be tapped at ease and are economically competitive.
In a nutshell, Tanzania can sustainably generate power from its geothermal, wind and solar resources. Tanzania also has a long stretch of the Indian Ocean coast and can generate power from tidal and waves. While geothermal and wind is limited to a few areas in the country, solar energy can be accessed in most parts of the country.
Tanzania’s sunshine hours per year range between 2,800 and 3,500 with global horizontal radiation of 4–7kWh per m2 per day. Solar resources in Tanzania are especially abundant in the central region.
To date though, only about 5.3 MWp of Photovoltaic (PV) solar energy have been installed in Tanzania. The Government supports solar development by removing VAT and import taxes on the main solar components (panels, batteries, inverters and regulators). Tanzania being close to the Equator should capitalize on its great solar resource to sustainably generate power, but unfortunately in most cases installed PVs are by individuals for their own home use.
Tanzania’s wind resource assessments indicate that there is adequate wind speed for grid-scale electricity generation. Two regions have high potential for power generation. Speeds of up to 9.9 miles per second have been recorded. However, much like solar power, this abundant resource is not being developed by the government.
Geothermal resources in Tanzania are mainly associated with the western and eastern rift branches. Currently, 5 prospects are prioritized and are under development by the Tanzanian Geothermal Development Company (TGDC). Slim hole exploration drilling has started in Ngozi since 2018. Current initiatives by TGDC are likely to produce 100 MW of power.
Now that we have seen that Tanzania has abundant clean energy options, what is holding Tanzania back from going for the alternatives? There are many challenges, including: Uncertainty around the government’s commitment to large-scale solar power; Decision makers’ perception that solar power cannot be used for large-scale generation; Discouraging business environment for private investors; Political interference in the decisions of the utility and the regulator; Unfavourable financing conditions for large-scale solar power projects; and ; Lack of data and studies to support the development of large-scale solar power projects.
However, the price of renewable energy has dropped dramatically. Wind and solar are already the cheapest options for new power in much of Africa. By 2020 — next year — onshore wind and solar will a less expensive source of new electricity than the cheapest fossil fuel alternative.
<p/p>Tanzania has tremendous renewable energy opportunities that should be tapped for the benefit of the Tanzanian people. Expanding electrification is a political priority in the country. Renewable energy projects are often financed by international financial institutions. Therefore there is great potential to work on the shared goals of development partners (who are pro-renewables) and the government, by promoting large-scale renewable energy projects that will expand access to energy, be economically competitive or cheaper than hydropower and fossil energy, and be technically and financially supported by development partners.
Working on overcoming the identified barriers to the deployment of large-scale renewables will contribute to ensuring increased access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all Tanzanians, while protecting our natural environment and World Heritage.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Minerals only 36% of the national population in Tanzania is connected to the grid. While this number is up from 10% in 2010 — access is largely limited to major towns. In rural areas only 11% of the population is connected to the grid. Given the large geographical size of the country and the dispersed population, off-grid energy is well positioned to play an important role in reaching the rural population.