HomeRegional NewsAfricaEd's note: We have to decarbonise, or do we really?

Ed’s note: We have to decarbonise, or do we really?

At a recent IEA African Ministerial Roundtable, Ghana’s minister of energy John-Peter Amewu boldly stated that Africa can’t industrialise with renewables only.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 15/07/2020

It’s an undeniable statement but the continent faces with climate change threats that must be addressed. As carbon emissions continue to impact weather patterns, many countries are seeing extreme droughts, flooding, and fires.

The question, therefore, is whether the continent can industrialise with less fossil fuel-driven power generation, while it tries to lessen the impact of continued reliance on carbon-intensive energy?

The reality is that CO2 emissions will continue regardless of reduction efforts. But this must not stop us from aiming for net-zero national economic lifestyles.  

During a virtual conversation on this topic, ESI Africa spoke with Dr Tony Surridge, the general manager for Cleaner Fossil Fuels at SANEDI in South Africa, and Daniel Goldman, the co-founder and managing director of Clean Energy Ventures in the US.

Does Africa have the financial resources to decarbonise without burdening their economies?

With listeners tuned in from across the globe, the questions varied from how to use CO2 emissions in an impactful way, to whether Africa has the financial resources to decarbonise without burdening their economies.

One audience member stated that it was interesting to learn that carbon dioxide beneficiation is possible. Perhaps this should be the focus in addressing the Ghanaian minister’s concern that solar power on its own will not enable African countries to industrialise.

He is not alone in expressing doubt. Remember that when the AfDB launched its New Deal for Africa, the Bank acknowledged that while renewable energy would be prioritised, fossil fuels would remain an important part of the overall energy mix.  

…carbon dioxide beneficiation is possible.

This energy sector’s decarbonisation challenge has South Africa’s integrated resource plan at odds. The plan must factor in the country’s heavy reliance on coal-fired power while advising on a just transition.

Considering that South Africa is the world’s fourth-largest coal exporter, it’s a transition that won’t happen easily or as quickly as needed to realise a net-zero economic outlook. Jobs are at risk!

…energy efficiency practices are a quick return for decarbonisation efforts.

According to Surridge, we have to consider the socio-economic impact and as such, energy efficiency practices are a quick return for decarbonisation efforts.

SANEDI views South Africa’s commitment to decreasing emissions as using fuel switching, energy efficiency (doing the same thing with less energy), energy conservation (you do without), renewable energy, nuclear power, and carbon capture utilisation storage.

Goldman believes that emerging markets must decarbonise aggressively and immediately and not in concert with building more fossil power. He states that renewables offer a lower-cost solution that also satisfies energy equity considerations.   

During the conversation, ESI Africa turned the questioning around and asked listeners what their company has implemented toward achieving net-zero emissions?

Access the recording to find out their response to decarbonise and send your comments to us on your preferred social media platform or via email (enews@esi-africa.com).

As a final thought, as stated by a listener, the energy sector is not the only industry pivotal in the decarbonisation strategy, there are other markets at play.

Until next week.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.