Seplat Energy supports advocacy for ‘just energy transition’ for Africa

By Bassey Udo

The global quest for energy transition away from fossil fuels must be such that would promote equity and justice for Africa, one of Nigeria’s indigenous energy company, Seplat Energy Plc, has said.

In a keynote presentation at the 45th Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition (NAICE) in Lagos, Seplat Energy said its greatest business opportunity ahead was to supply the right mix of energy to support Nigeria’s economic growth.

In supporting Nigeria’s economy, the company said it remained committed to making positive social impacts and contributions towards the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Director, New Energy at Seplat, Effiong Okon, stated this in the presentation on the theme: ‘Operationalising a Clean Energy Transition for Sustainable Development in Africa’.

Okon, who represented Seplat Energy CEO, Roger Brown, said for a successful energy transition in Africa, the process must support the goals of the Paris Agreement and align with SPE’s objective to get the world to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, if not before.

“Lower-emission hydrocarbons, particularly gas, have a role to play during energy transition by replacing diesel generators and biomass.

“Though hydrocarbon export will continue to be a mainstay of the Nigerian economy and will fund Nigeria’s growth as well as its energy transition, the Oil & Gas Industry has a role to play as a responsible steward of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets, including those that might be divested,” Brown sai.

He said in the longer term, the reality and threat of climate change would require the decarbonisation of energy systems in Nigeria, although sustainability and transparency must be at the heart of business operations and decision-making.

Making a case in support of the advocacy for a ‘just energy transition’, Brown said there was the need to balance decarbonisation with Africa’a development.

“Global warming and climate volatility are existential threats to humanity and nature. The world needs to accelerate efforts to achieve net-zero and mitigate warming effects. Africa’s climate, agriculture and people will suffer most in the coming decades. The problem has been caused by emissions from developed-world countries that have enjoyed their ‘carbon privilege’ and built strong economies on fossil fuels.

“However, we need to consider the reality in the continent. poverty, hunger, unemployment, population growth abound here. Africa contributes just 3.3% of global emissions. Most Africans (600 million) lack access to reliable energy, which hampers development. Use of inefficient and costly diesel / petrol generators saps financial resources, drains foreign exchange and creates pollution.

“Biomass use for cooking causes deforestation, health problems and nearly 0.5 million premature deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa every year. The developed-world’s drive to impose decarbonisation on Africa will constrain development,” Brown said.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has been championing the advocacy for a just energy transition, which would allow Africa to continue to harness and develop its hydrocarbon resources to grow its economy, while joining in the quest towards alternative energy sources.

With abundant proven and unproven gas reserves, Sylva said a just energy transition was one that would allow Africa to continue to harness these gas resources to supply to industries to sustain their operations, create jobs and guarantee energy security and access to over 600 million people in the continent that does not have access to electricity.

Making the case for gas, the Seplat Director said the developed-world pressures to abandon fossil fuels were being pushed back by the recognition of the need to drive development with reliable energy.

COP27, he explained, would focus on how best to achieve the balance for the benefit of tomorrow’s 2.5 billion Africans, of whom 500 million would be Nigerians.

Given the current low emission levels, he said Africa could achieve a disproportionate improvement in living stands through a globally small increase in emissions from cleaner gas for power and cooking.

He called on players in the continent to leverage in oil and gas revenues to cash flow transition, but also tap international transition funding where available, hence the need for good corporate governance.

The Seplat Energy executive therefore urged industry operators to focus on quick wins first, including decarbonising the upstream and focus on producing ‘advantaged’ low-carbon barrels with low Scope carbondioxide; end routine flaring and redeploy gas to power operations and local communities; and deploy renewables to power operations where possible, and share with local communities.

“We need to develop gas as transition fuel (Gas-to-power) to replace diesel, move along value chain into power, e.g. business parks, large buildings; hybrid gas-to-power/solar offerings; and bottled gas products for domestic use.

“In addition, we can expand into renewables (hydro, wind, geothermal, blue/green hydrogen; and develop and monetise carbon capture and storage,” he said.

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