Contributions of Renewable Energy to Sustainable Development in Africa: Case Study of Solar Energy in Rwanda
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Acknowledging the role of energy in human development and considering the current global unsustainable consumption of a depleting and polluting source of energy, there is a need to advocating for sustainable sources energy. The renewable energies are considered as a way forward to achieve the sustainable development and meets the energy needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future generation. The objective of this study is to evaluate the contributions of solar energy to the dimensions of sustainable development (SD) in Rwanda with the hypothesis stating that the effective utilisation of solar energy would increase its contributions to the social, economic and environmental aspects of Rwandans. Rwanda is a small and landlocked country with abundant renewable energy sources, and solar energy is one of the existing sources in abundance. Rwanda’s energy mix is dominated by renewable energy mainly hydro and solar energy sources. We assessed the contributions of the existing solar energy projects to the sustainable development of Rwanda looking at the three dimensions of SD social, economic, and environmental. The triangular approach was used, and the data were collected using the mixed research methodology involving quantitative and qualitative research. The major findings are that the solar home systems (SHSs) is the most used solar energy technology for electricity production and is frequent in rural areas. We found that the SHSs are contributing much on the social aspect (Health, Education, and Security), economically, SHSs contribute on jobs creation but is has some challenges first it is found to be expensive where it costs the 11.25 % end-user average monthly income second it has the limited capacity. Environmentally, SHSs are contributing to the preservation of natural resources, pollution reduction and to clean air and water this dimension is not fully known in the rural areas. The solar power plants in Rwanda are doing much better in impacting people’s lives socially, economically, and environmentally but are much more expensive, and in a country with a high density of population the land could be a problem. Solar energy is very much contributing to the sustainable development of the Rwandans is providing an alternative of electricity access to rural areas far from the grid, create job opportunities, giving Rwanda extra flow of money from trading carbon credit while preserving the environment and help the country to diversify its energy mix.