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Energy transition through the lens of Africa

By Akinwole Omoboriowo II

Fossil-fuel-based sources have long dominated the energy sector, including in Africa where air pollution is worsened by the burning of bushes for firewood and so on.  

However, this current situation is under pressure from the public, regulators, global investors and financial partners calling on the sector to acclimatise to cleaner (and some say “greener”) energy systems. In addition to this pressure, global governments have also committed to incorporating more renewable energy sources to the energy system in line with the COP-2015 Paris Agreement.

The global energy transition narrative is now well and truly centre stage.

While the energy transition is a global phenomenon, the reality is that the implementation may differ in form and timing from one region to another, as well as from developed nations to developing nations.

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One of the important questions to address then includes, what does the energy transition look like through the African lens?

Developed nations have benefited from stable energy supplies which have largely been powered by traditional energy sources, and as a result, have enabled them to industrialise. On the other hand, developing nations – African countries included – are only beginning to adapt their countries to be producer-based (industrialisation) rather than consumer-based (net importers) economies.

So, the notion of completely doing away with traditional energy resources to fully embrace the energy transition should be considered from all angles; at the centre of which should be about the realisation of SDG 7 to the benefit of all.

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The latest statistics (Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report 2021) issued by a partnership between the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveal that the world is not on track to achieving any of the targets under SDG 7 within the set timeframes. This is particularly true for the most vulnerable countries and those that were already lagging behind.

The IRENA report also highlights that “energy transition will be enabled by information technology, smart technology, policy frameworks and market instruments”. This is true for a few of African countries as they are well on this path.

In South Africa, for example, the government has introduced various energy policies (from the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme to the recent amendment of Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006). “The Amendment serves to increase the threshold for embedded generation from the current 1MW to 100MW without the need for a license”. These policy structures are being put in place to enable a just energy transition.

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For vulnerable countries, this will mean not completely doing away with traditional energy sources such as gas-to-power solutions, which are deemed to be cleaner energy sources when compared to diesel oil and or heavy fuel oil, for instance. What makes natural gas a favourable solution are the benefits that it carries, including being reasonably environmentally-friendly, large foreign exchange earners for needing boost to most countries in the world (and most needed in Africa where resource-rich countries continue to struggle economically), and the gas industry continues to be massive employer of labour.

We at Genesis Energy Holding (GENESIS) continue to support and advocate for the energy transition narratives, with the intention that proper planning of phased implementation over necessary timescale should be the norm, rather than the exception.

The topic of energy transition is therefore of great importance to me, and I shall continue to share my perspective on this important topic, inclusive of the technologies and paths Africa needs to explore for the practical realisation of energy transition objectives.

Akinwole Omoboriowo II is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Genesis Energy Holding

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