Energy security critical for development
WHEN Russia assumed the G8 presidency early this year, President Vladimir Putin observed that the G8 and other states should focus on energy security as one of the critical issues of our time He called on the G8 and other countries to develop innovative technology that could lead to sustainable energy supply when the present energy potential is exhausted.
Putin's proposal is not only a critical concern for the most industrialised nations but also for the developing countries, since energy supply is vital for industrial development. It is an open secret that the East African Community partner states face energy deficits quite often. A prolonged drought translates into power rationing with a severe negative impact on the people and sustainable development.
Recently, the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis released a report titled Enhancing Capacity for Integrated Assessment and Planning: The Case of Energy Policy in Kenya, which blames our energy problems on poor planning.
The report emphasises that focusing mainly on electricity at the expense of other sources of energy is wrong. In order to resolve the energy problem, the EAC countries should diversify their sources of energy.
First, more hydroelectric power plants should be established in the region. Second, oil and gas exploration in the region should be enhanced. Already, there are prospects of oil off the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania, and in western Uganda. In the rural areas, the majority of the people tend to rely on firewood and charcoal for fuel.
Charcoal is also widely used in urban areas. This has a negative impact on forests and water catchment areas. It is high time other sources are identified to contain the power deficit. Constant power failures in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Kampala and other urban areas undermine industrial development in the region.