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  • شماره 4837 -
  • ۱۳۹۹ شنبه ۲۰ دي

Take the energy transition seriously

Mohammad Hazrati
Tehran’s air pollution is a continuous problem which arises every winter and is then forgotten by the policy makers after the first rain, when  the  weather  becomes relatively cleaner. It is said that the cost of air pollution in Tehran is $2.6 billion per year and that annually more than 4000 people die prematurely from air pollution. Urban air pollution is not limited only to Tehran, it is a major health risk in several large Iranian cities. Over the  last week, the same problem arose again and Tehran was surrounded by a blanket of smog; this time pollution came back to Tehran while lockdowns were being implemented and a reduction in traffic was seen. Although there  have  been some contradictory statements about the main causes of the current pollution problem, it seems that burning mazut in power plants is among the main reasons. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed  this  issue  and  stated  that  burning  mazut in power plants was the main reason for the current severe level of air pollution, this issue also being endorsed by a member of City Council of Tehran. On the other hand, one of the deputies of the Environmental Protection Agency declared the main source of the pollution was using sub-standard and poor-quality diesel in cars. Alongside these anthropogenic sources, the natural topographic conditions must also be considered for Tehran’s air pollution. 
However, what is so important here is that burning fossil fuels, in one way or another, is behind  this unsolved problem. There are some short-term solutions to curb the pollution level, such as closing schools and universities on some days or imposing traffic restrictions, but  while   most  of  them have been applied they have not been successful and effective. There are also some long-term solutions which could effectively solve the problem and also have
 significant contributions to tackle climate change. Energy transition is one of the most important of them. Energy transition is a  pathway towards  the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to efficient, renewable and sustainable energy systems. Although at the heart of the energy transition is the need to reduce energy related CO2 emissions to limit climate change, it also has co-benefits for improving air quality. 
Energy  transition  would  create  an opportunity for policy makers to act on climate change and air pollution  together and take advantage of the synergies between the Paris Agreement climate goals and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to improve lives now and limit future global warming. Renewable energy sources can contribute to improving air quality and human health, for instance by supplying electricity or heat without combustion fossil fuels.
Iran’s geographic position is suitable for different forms of renewable energy. The southern provinces are suitable for solar and wind energy. Iran is located on the world’s ‘Solar Belt’ experiencing high amounts of solar radiation with an average of 300 sunny days per year. It is stated that 1.7 million hectares of Iranian land receives more than 270 watts per square metre (W/m2) and 28 million hectares - which is equivalent to 17.5% of the country’s total area - receives somewhere between 250 and 270 W/m2. In addition, Iran has the potential to produce 1.4 gigawatts (GW) of  wind  power  and 2.1 million hectares of Iran’s land has an average annual wind speed of 8 metres per second (m/s). Despite  this  huge potential to develop renewables, and the explicit declaration of the Sixth Five-Year National Development Plan (FYNDP) (1396-1400/2016-2021) to increase the share of renewable energy to at least 5% of overall  power  generation  by  2021, their share of the country’s total electricity generation capacity is still less than 1%. This is mainly because of the cheap resources of fossil fuels and the lack of infrastructure, investment and technology. 
The country’s huge reliance on the production and consumption of fossil fuels and its climate change and environmental implications necessitate an energy transition away from fossil fuels. Furthermore, an overreliance on only one or two sources of energy has made the country vulnerable to any variation in production, investment and export and the price of the resources has generally reduced its energy security. Several countries have introduced targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and the US will also probably join the Paris Agreement very soon to accelerate the pace of limiting global warming, all highlighting that the global demand of fossil fuel growth will also decline in the near future. Thus, now is the time for Iran to take the energy transition programme seriously, not only for the market’s future but also for the environment and the health of its citizens.

 

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