By Paul Homewood
Africa refuses to be cowed and demand access to reliable energy.
CAPE TOWN/LONDON (Reuters) – A handful of protesters on the ground floor of the cavernous Cape Town International Convention Centre spread fake oil on the ground and chanted, demanding an end to fossil fuels
Two floors above, the hundreds of delegates at Africa Oil Week were largely unaware – and mostly unmoved – by the display.
“Under no circumstances are we going to be apologizing,” said Gabriel Obiang Lima, energy minister of Equatorial Guinea, adding that they need to exploit those resources to create jobs and boost economic development.
“Anybody out of the continent saying we should not develop those fields, that is criminal. It is very unfair.”
The tension keenly felt at oil conferences in Europe was largely absent over the three-day event in Cape Town; there was little focus on climate change, apart from the shadow renewables cast over long-term demand.
In contrast, investor and government pressure to address climate change has fundamentally altered oil events in Europe.
While no oil-producing country has stopped developing fossil fuel resources, pledges such as Britain’s promise to be net carbon neutral by 2050 or Norway’s national carbon tax show that governments acknowledge a need to shift away from fossil fuels.
In Cape Town, African leaders touted the good that oil, gas and even coal can bring on a continent where some 600 million people lack access to electricity.
“Energy is the catalyst for growth,” said Gwede Mantashe, South Africa’s energy minister and national chair of the ruling African National Congress.
“They even want to tell us to switch off all the coal-generated power stations,” he said. “Until you tell them, ‘you know we can do that, but you’ll breathe fresh air in the darkness’.”
African ministers in Cape Town emphasized their need for fossil fuel cash and power in order to develop and diversify resource-dependent economies.
Nearly half of Africans had no access to electricity last year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), while around 80% of sub-Saharan African companies suffered frequent electricity disruptions that cut into profits.
Sclerotic transportation networks and clogged ports also add some 30%-40% to the cost of shipping goods within Africa, according to the Infrastructure Consortium of Africa, while the African Development Bank has pegged the amount of cash needed for infrastructure development on the continent at a whopping $130–170 billion a year to 2025.
The IEA said renewables were expected to account for two-thirds of worldwide gains in access to electricity by 2030, and warned that changing global dynamics meant nations could no longer assume oil would translate into reliable future revenues.
Some ministers, including Mantashe and Uganda’s Irene Muloni, also emphasized a need to develop renewable resources.
In Kenya, roughly 70% of electricity comes from renewable sources such as hydropower and geothermal – more than three times the global average – and the government aims to generate 100% of energy from renewable sources by the end of next year.
But few in Cape Town were prepared to limit fossil fuel development.
Oil, said Gabon’s minister for hydrocarbons Noel Mboumba, is a major driver of ?utm_source=CCNet+Newsletter&utm_campaign=447825fb89-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_11_08_03_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fe4b2f45ef-447825fb89-development.
“We will do all in our power to develop it.”
Meanwhile the IEA has published its African Energy Outlook report:
Africa is set to become increasingly influential in shaping global energy trends over the next two decades as it undergoes the largest process of urbanisation the world has ever seen, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.
Africa Energy Outlook 2019 finds that current policy and investment plans in African countries are not enough to meet the energy needs of the continent’s young and rapidly growing population. Today, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million lack access to clean cooking facilities.
The number of people living in Africa’s cities is expected to expand by 600 million over the next two decades, much higher than the increase experienced by China’s cities during the country’s 20-year economic and energy boom.
Africa’s overall population is set to exceed 2 billion before 2040, accounting for half of the global increase over that period. These profound changes will drive the continent’s economic growth, infrastructure development and, in turn, energy demand, which is projected to rise 60 per cent to around 1,320 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2040, based on current policies and plans.
Head of the IEA, Fatih Birol, naturally still insists on claiming that most of this increased demand can be met by unreliable renewable energy, especially solar power.
He moans that there is still only 5 GW of solar capacity on the continent, 1% of global capacity, but he does not seem to have worked out why the Africans want electricity that is only available for half the day, which explains why solar power still only supplies 0.4% of Africa’s energy needs.
I am quite sure that wind and solar power will expand rapidly there, but as with Asia this will not be able to keep up with the massive growth in energy demand required to improve the life of Africans and maintain an urbanised, industrialised economy.
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November 9, 2019 at 01:18PM