Environmental sustainability is a critical component in any national development plan. In the past however it has been derided as a luxury, especially by the energy sector. As we see the consequences of the centuries of these damaging policies however, we must change course, to the hard course.
Although it is true that generally speaking, non-polluting forms of energy production are more expensive, when taking into account the cost of climate change, it not only comes out in the wash, but is likely to be advantageous, particularly for coastal and low-lying nations. Eritrea is a country that is has been dwelling this conundrum since independence.
The Government of Eritrea however, has taken the hard course, the right course, in developing its environmental policies. At independence, the entirety of Eritrea’s energy production was provided by an old diesel generator in the highlands, it was replaced by a larger, more efficient generator on the port. Early on however, it was recognized that although an important short term step, a much more sustainable policy would have to be developed.
To this end it embarked, with researchers around the world to study the suitability for wind power generation. As a consequence, a pilot program was developed near the southern Red Sea port of Asseb. Although just a pilot program, it is in fact one of the largest wind power generation facilities in Africa.
Although the energy sector is generally one of the worst polluting sectors of any economy, it was recognized too in Eritrea that sustainability and development are not just catch words, but synonymous. Realizing this meant that Eritreans should also develop their environmental resources. This has meant proposing to develop the longest protected shoreline in the world and preserving rainforests. It has also meant, investing significant energy to replant millions of trees, to return Eritrea forests.
Of course for this to be sustainable curbs had to be placed on the cutting of these trees for fuel and construction. This meant that cooking stoves had to be developed to provide villagers with an alternative. To the delight of environmentalists worldwide, villagers in Eritrea, and of course the Eritrean Energy Research and Training Centre, a stove was developed that used significantly less fuel to provide the same cooking capacity, furthermore, it could be fueled by organic waste which was readily available.
These developments do not of course conclude Eritrea’s focus on environmental sustainability, and in the future developments will become increasingly difficult and expensive, but it is a brief narrative of policies, which if adopted globally, could significantly reduce human impact on the environment. In the future, the energy policies of our country will need to also be as revolutionary and forward-looking, especially if we must mitigate the impact of other nations as well.