Energy transition impossible without Africa’s huge energy resources, says Sylva

By Bassey Udo

The quest for the global energy transition would be impossible without due consideration to all available energy resources in Africa, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has said.

The Minister who spoke at the Nigeria-Africa Natural Resources and Energy Investment Summit, in Abuja on Thursday said the evidence was clear that energy transition goal was not achievable by renewable energy sources alone.

He said all available energy sources should be considered, adding that apart from available technologies, like the carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) should be employed to make them cleaner.

The Minister who spoke on the topic “Achieving a greener Africa and ensuring its energy security”, said despite the energy transition, oil and gas would remain important components of the global energy mix for decades to come.

“They (oil and gas) will continue to be needed and essential for propelling global socio-economic development, especially in energy poor countries, mostly in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa.

“Fossil fuel, used with appropriate technologies, should be a part of the solution to climate change in energy-poor countries,” he said.

He underlined the importance of natural gas in particular, which he said was widely seen as a low carbon emitting energy source that could play a major role in the quest for energy transition.

“Natural gas is known to emit 30% less CO2 compared to oil, and almost 70% less compared to coal, for an equivalent amount of energy supply.

“It is well positioned to become the dominant fuel for generating power worldwide,” he said.

For Nigeria, he said the government has already made a strong commitment to embracing energy transition, pledging to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

This, the Minister said, was in addition to the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari, at COP 26 in 2021 to attain carbon net-zero by 2060.

Nigeria, he said, was following a transition pathway combining technology, investment, business strategies, with the government policy that would enable the country to transit from its current energy system to a low-carbon energy system with natural gas playing a pivotal role.

What the country needs, he said, was affordable, reliable and sustainable energy resources to eradicate the prevalent energy poverty in the shortest time possible, to propel economic growth.

The only viable option to realise that objective currently, he said, was natural gas, considering the country’s vast proven gas endowments, put at 209 trillion cubic feet of proven reserves, with about 600 TCF of potential reserves.

“Nigeria cannot ignore this resource, especially when energy poverty is viciously starring at us,” Sylva said.

The goal of Nigeria’s gas policy, he pointed out, was to ensure that gas development was undertaken in accordance with our socio-economic development priorities, with the aim of guaranteeing long-term energy security in the country, and boost the domestic gas market.

These priorities, he said, informed the government’s declaration of 2021-to-2030 as the ‘Decade of Gas’, which allowed it to embark on a critical pathway to ensure the abundant natural gas resources were harnessed to engender domestic economic growth and development.

Part of the policy, he said, was the launch by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources of the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) as part of the National Gas Policy to expand Nigeria’s Domestic gas utilization; the National Gas Flare Commercialization Programme as well as specific provisions in the new Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) that elevates liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as the fuel of choice compared to other competing fuels.

In addition, he said the usage of solar energy was already being vigorously promoted across the country, while the use of hydro, wind and other natural resources were also being expanded.

Sylva described the theme of the Summit, ‘Towards a Greener Africa’ as apt and timely considering the challenging time in the energy industry globally.

At the core of the challenge, the Minister noted, was the
issue of climate change that has resulted in the clamour for the transition to greener energy sources to reduce carbon emissions to the environment.

The challenge, he said, has made it imperative for every nation and region to develop a green initiative to foster a collective combat against the incessant threat to the planet caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

Such initiatives, he noted, must be bold, decisive and on target, adding that these should reflect the realities and conditions prevailing in these places, particularly the socio-economic development and energy needs.

Sylva identified the key consideration in every country’s energy policy to be a focus on energy security as a priority goal.

“The reason is not far-fetched: Energy propels economic growth. That makes energy security synonymous with optimum and sustainable economic growth.

“Energy is an indispensable ingredient for human development and socio-economic prosperity. It is central to jobs creation, security, health, and other challenges facing humans,” he said.

He said the focus on energy security was why access to energy was prominently addressed in the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals.

In particular, he said the sustainable development goal (SDG 7) focusses on access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, as a fundamental right.

As of today, he said energy poverty was still much prevalent in the world, especially in Africa where millions of people still do not have access to electricity or clean cooking fuels.

Based on the UN data, Sylva noted that about 760 million people lack access to electricity worldwide, with 3 out of 4 of them living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Besides, one-third of the world’s population – about 2.6 billion people, he said, have no access to clean cooking fuels, with over 900 million of these in sub-Saharan Africa.

“On the average, only 48 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population have access to electricity, while only 18 percent have access to clean cooking fuels, compared with a global average of 90 percent and 70 percent, respectively,” he added.

On CO2 emissions, the Minister quoted World Bank statistics, which showed that the world average CO2 emissions was 4.48 metric tons per capita in 2018, with some regions and individual countries recording up to about five to seven times this value, while emissions by sub-Saharan Africa in total was only 0.76 metric tons per capita.

The implication of this scenario, he pointed out, was that the issues around energy poverty, climate and sustainable development were not mutually exclusive.

To fix these issues, the Minister said the approach should not be disconnected from the fact that climate change was not the only serious concern to Africa, but energy poverty also, which he noted was at an alarming level.

“Both must be addressed in a sustainable manner. It must be a win-win situation,” he advised.

Energy transition, he pointed out, was about providing clean energy, and not about discriminating between energy sources, adding that in the face of the current high level of energy poverty worldwide, especially in Africa, all energy sources would be required to achieve the sustainable development goal of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

The Minister insisted Africa has a key role to play in securing a greener world where clean natural gas is used to power economies sustainably.

In particular, he said Africa’s large gas reserves fit well with the country’s push for industrial growth and the need for reliable and affordable electricity to propel its overdue growth, which was essential for the continent to succeed in eradicating prevalent energy poverty in the shortest time possible.

Africa must stand together to weather the climate change storm, while avoiding losing all recent gains in the quest to pull our vast population out of energy poverty, and hence economic poverty.

“We need to pull our financial resources together for the improvement of necessary energy infrastructures. We should start looking inward to develop strategies for raising investments for the purpose of achieving greener Africa without jeopardizing our energy sufficiency, if we are to succeed in eradicating energy poverty in our continent,” he advised.

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