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The Politics of Electricity Access and Environmental Security in Mozambique

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Title of host publicationEnergy and Environmental Security in Developing Countries
DateAccepted/In press - 3 Mar 2021
DatePublished (current) - 3 Mar 2021
Pages279-302
Number of pages23
PublisherSpringer
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
EditorsMuhammad Asif
Original languageEnglish
ISBN (Electronic)9783030636548
ISBN (Print)9783030636531

Abstract

Electricity access is a key aspect of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7. Alleviating poverty by increasing the availability of grid connections, system reliability and generation capacity is a key driver of economic growth. However, 2.7 billion people still rely upon unsustainable wood fuels (such as charcoal) for heating, lighting and cooking. A sustainable transition to low carbon energy has positive health and social benefits (e.g. reductions in air pollution, deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions); and secondary economic benefits from energy supply service jobs (such as installation and maintenance jobs), market disruption and innovation (from community decentralised systems, for example), and reduced labour and time costs (such as reducing costs associated with mobile phone-charging). However, representing electricity access in terms of numbers of grid connections over-simplifies the energy access challenge – hiding unreliability, community exclusion from planning processes, and potential socio-environmental damage from energy sources (e.g. from coal-use), and complex political-institutional and socio-technical system relationships. This two-part chapter examines first the benefits of electricity access provision for developing countries, and then focuses on the challenges through examination of the case of Mozambique – a low income, high resource abundance nation that is undergoing rapid electrification. The chapter explores the colonial history of Mozambique and its influence upon energy technology socio-technical system development across the diverse physical and cultural geography of the country; the effects of internal political conflict and contestation; and the impact of large-scale foreign investments, especially in extractive resources. We conclude by discussing how the changing political economy of Mozambican energy production, distribution and use at the national and regional level has yet to significantly transform everyday energy practices in rural and urban areas. The majority of the Mozambican population remains dependent on environmentally insecure fuelwood (in rural areas) and charcoal (in urban areas), especially for cooking. The consumption of biomass is of concern to authorities because of rapid deforestation, particularly within the hinterland of major cities. Moreover, fuel supply chains remain disconnected from the electricity generation and distribution systems and the extraction of resources such as coal or natural gas. Recommendations for policy, technology implementation and development practice are discussed throughout.

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