Renewable energy movement, from a trend to a survival tool

This article originally appeared on G7G20.

During COP21 in Paris, 195 countries pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) are fully implemented to keep the 2°C trajectory by 2020, a temperature rise of 2.7°C will eventually happen by 2100. All eyes are focused on the energy sector as it is responsible for over two thirds of the greenhouse gases emission.

It has become crystal clear that renewable energy is inevitable. It now accounts for more than 22% of the total global electricity generation, reducing 20% of the power sector emissions, according to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). And despite the slump in oil prices, an unexpected riposte came with a 5% growth of renewables investments in 2015 over 2014.

Climate change, in addition to fluctuations in oil prices, dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, and lack of job opportunities are some of the reasons behind the growing use of renewable energy, which is expected to soon lead the world energy market. My hometown, Jordan, happened to be one of the leading countries in the Middle East to have a renewable energy law, reach grid parity, and introduce net-metering, power purchasing agreements and energy wheeling, in addition to attracting tens of international energy investors.

Jordan is the world’s second water-poorest country which imports 97% of its energy and is home to over a million refugees who form approximately 20% of Jordan’s population. The primary energy demand in Jordan is continuously increasing and meeting this demand cannot be possible without the shift to renewables. The Jordanian government has represented progressive decisions towards renewables, such as introducing full exemption of sales tax and custom duty on renewable energy products.

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But how to make sure the use of renewable energy is not just another trend? Twenty years ago in Jordan, for example, there was a trend of installing solar thermal systems. This trend is fading away. Nowadays, many people who install rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV), do not have solar thermal systems despite the fact that the former is more expensive and less efficient. This is happening because people lack awareness.

Building a culture of renewables is what we need to make the use of renewable energy sustainable. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is projecting that 10% of global generated capacity will come from small-scale solar PV by 2040. It also expects that by the same year, 25% of all car fleets will be electric vehicles. I believe we cannot reach these numbers without raising awareness at the grassroots level through education, media, civil society organisations, and most importantly, by introducing programs that guarantee inclusion.

The energy bill accounts for 20% of the GDP in Jordan; this can be reduced if the government stops subsidising electricity coming from fossil fuels. Citizens won’t shift to renewables without paying the real, unsubsidised price of electricity. It is important that they make the decision to shift to renewables just like the government did.

Many may protest, asking to keep the subsidies due to low wages. The government can channel the subsidy budget to incentivise, finance, or fund rooftop PV. Citizens, including the less fortunate, will play a major role in stopping climate change, and feel the joy of transformation by becoming producers instead of consumers.

Ayah is a certified Renewable Energy Professional, and a Jordanian One Young World Ambassador. She provides business development, training and consultancy services for the solar energy sector. Ayah is the founder of the micro-blog Lady Solar, through which she spreads awareness about renewables. As an active volunteer and public speaker, Ayah was named “2014 Young Energy Professional of the Year’ by the Association of Energy Engineers in Washington D.C.