Finding renewable energy sources and adopting smarter energy choices is a necessity for the economy and the environment.
The sound of a generator revving below the building competes with melodies of the Akon concert in the background. Here I am in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experiencing a power cut and listening to a rapper whose foundation (Akon Lighting Africa) has installed 100,000 solar street lamps, 1,200 solar microgrids and created 5,500 jobs throughout 15 countries in Africa. I curse myself for forgetting my portable solar power charger.
More than a luxury, going for renewable energies is a necessity. And energy was at the crux of the climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015. The 194 countries knew the undeniable fact that the energy that fuels transport, agriculture and the economy is primarily responsible for tsunamis, snow in May in Lebanon and pests spreading epidemics. It was clear that the interests at play were economic rather than climate-related. Liberal economists worried about innovation and patents while others were concerned with the transfer of technology and ensuring poor countries could still aim for better lifestyles. Better lifestyles, economists tell us, are largely dependent on the availability of and access to energy.
Since the beginning of the climate convention in 1992 there has been a shift in mentalities from perceiving climate-change as an obligation (we must), to a period where it fell in the realm of feel-good actions (we should) finally reaching the stage of rational investment (we want). Proof of that is that in 2015 China ranked number one for windpower, Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy, Portugal was powered by renewables during 4 days straight, India has a solarpowered airport and Morocco is building the largest concentrated solar power plant. Lebanon still lags behind, though there are increasing incentives for adopting smarter energy choices.
Those types of achievements do require governmental decisions, but there are many things one can do regardless of the government policy. Psychologists tell us that for behaviour to change one must start with what is easy, relevant and rewarding.
Individuals can start by switching lights, appliances and other equipment off, installing a solar water heater with a six months return on investment, buying A+ rated appliance which cut electricity bills by 80%, replacing lamps with energy efficient ones and making sure TVs and computers are properly turned off. Planning the day to avoid multiple trips by car or even sharing a ride may seem difficult but is not impossible.
Companies can install solar panels for stable power, reducing fluctuation in energy and cutting costs. Buildings that are insulated so they require less heating and cooling and cost 40% less in energy bills. Hotels can set the air conditioning at 22/23 – which would also curb summer flues – and install smart energy management systems. For example the National Museum has done the “Hold your Breath” challenge, lighting the museum in green for seven days by renewable energies in support of Lebanon Climate ACT.
INVESTMENTS IN RENEWABLE ENERGY
As in the negotiations, so it goes in daily life – money is at the heart. International banks provide lower credit interest for investments in renewable energy. They also assess the choice of energy source when determining the viability of investments. Lebanon’s banking sector could significantly influence energy patterns in the country. Since 2010, Banque Du Liban (BDL), has been promoting environmentally friendly initiatives as part of its loan incentive packages. These initiatives are provided through the banks’ medium and long-term loans with interest ranging between 0% and 1%. Whether promoting energy related projects such as energy saving, renewable energy, and green buildings, or nonenergy related projects such as pollution abatement, solid waste and wastewater treatment, recycling, eco-tourism, and organic farming among others, the BDL has been striving to turn the Lebanese economy greener. Through all its initiatives, the BDL is taking a leading role in contributing to economic, social, and environmental development.
With solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energies, power cuts may become a thing of the past and countries such as the Congo could lift themselves out of poverty.