Coal-fired power is at the heart of India’s mission to lift millions out of poverty. India has 285 plants with a capacity of 211GW already operating; it’s currently building a further 30GW of coal-fired generation capacity, with a further 35GW in pre-construction stages.
A visit to India shows how serious it is about serious power generation.
Of course, the upside of having reliable and affordable power on tap is not just reducing the daily misery associated with grinding poverty. It’s what happens to education and literacy standards when the poor have access to meaningful power, as Vijay Jayaraj explains below.
From Poverty to Moon Landing: How Coal Propelled Indian Economy
23 August 2023
On August 23, India landed a craft near the Moon’s South Pole – an historic feat matched only by three other countries and made possible by the subcontinent’s largely uninhibited use of fossil fuels.
The acceleration of coal usage between 2000 and 2020 played a pivotal role in bringing electricity to billions and ushering in a new era of economic growth and improved living standards. So much so, that a nation that once did not even have enough food for its population now has funds for space missions.
Fossil Fuels and the Rise of Electricity Access in India
India is a country with a long history of energy poverty — a term that encapsulates the struggle of millions to access basic electricity services. In 1995, only about 50% of the people had access to electricity. Vast segments of the population suffered stunted economic development and substandard education, healthcare and overall quality of life. Rural homes were shrouded in darkness after sunset, hindering productivity and limiting opportunities.
The situation began to change in the early 2000s as the Indian government committed to expand electricity access. One of the key drivers was the use of fossil fuels, especially coal.
Coal is a cheap and abundant source of energy and well-suited for large-scale power generation. Harnessing its abundant coal reserves, India embarked on a journey to alleviate energy poverty, ignite industrial growth and improve the lives of millions.
By 2020, the number of Indians with access to electricity had reached 99%. Yes, fossil fuels improved the lives of billions.
Electric lighting has replaced kerosene lamps, improving indoor air quality and reducing health hazards. It has also extended educational opportunities by enabling students to study after sunset. Daily routines have been transformed because households can engage in activities once limited to daylight hours.
Electrical appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines made lives more comfortable and convenient. Women liberated from the drudgery of handwashing clothes and cooking over smoky fires, are better positioned for educational and occupational opportunities.
Industries ranging from manufacturing and agriculture to information technology have thrived with consistent power supply. As a result, Indian employment has grown at a rapid pace in the past two decades.
India’s progress in eradicating poverty and improving education, gender equality and sanitation aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
During the fiscal year ending March 2022, coal-generated electricity accounted for 72% of all electricity consumed by the country’s 1.3 billion people. In 2022-2023, this rose to 73%.
A famous social media influencer once said, “Facts don’t care about feelings.” And billions of Indians taking pride in their lunar accomplishment and enjoying economic improvements couldn’t care less about the hostility of Western leaders toward the fossil fuels that have made their future brighter. CO2 Coalition
By Vijay Jayaraj When the political elite call for Africa and other developing nations to adopt absurd green energy objectives, consider that they already have blood on their hands. Those discouraging the use of fossil fuels in Africa in favor of wind and solar have played a direct role in high morbidity and mortality rates…
Author: Vijay Jayaraj | Published: American Thinker | Date: 28 June 2022 How many lives do European coal plants have? Nobody knows. But by now, most of the world understands that Europe’s reliance on coal is no longer deniable. 580 more words
Many international organizations propagate drastic population control measures under the radar while publicly advocating and providing (some) aid to the poor and endorsing environmental concerns. This includes governmental and nongovernmental agencies such as UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities), The World Bank, USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the Club of Rome and its many spin-offs, Worldwide Fund for Nature, formerly called World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Green Peace, Population Council, International Planned Parenthood Federation, etc.
As a part of the Population Control Agenda and the overpopulation myth, in addition to enforced sterilization, abortion and birth control methods, other means of limiting both population and life span have been applied to impoverished countries and are often tied to reception or denial of aid or loans[i].
Of these, disease control and electrical power are the most important because they can facilitate many of the other items on the list, and kick-start the economy. A healthy workforce and power to run industry, business, medical facilities and develop transportation systems are key to economic development. Although many African countries need foreign aid and international loans now, the goal should be to help them raise their economy to the point where they are net contributors to the world economy or at least are self sufficient. (NOTE: most actual foreign aid only props up corrupt leaders; the people get very little of it. Some estimate that only 2% goes to help the people or build needed infrastructure.)
Throwing crumbs at the problem is not enough to accomplish this goal without actual investment in infrastructure. See detailed list below of essential necessities that international organizations have denied or failed to provide/ promote :
DDT and Disease Control: Banning DDT has caused a rebound of malaria, once almost eradicated in many areas, and many other insect borne diseases, resulting in an estimated million deaths each year from malaria alone. (Estimates vary, but the real number is unknown.) Many of the agencies named above, as well as many Western nations, withheld funds from foreign aid and loans for development unless underdeveloped countries abandoned DDT. Poorer nations had no choice but to “voluntarily” ban the use of DDT to control insect borne diseases, which account for 80% of infectious diseases in these countries. The economic loss in human productivity from malaria, TB and other diseases is incalculable.
Further research has disproved the claims of Rachael Carson’s book, Silent Spring, that DDT causes environmental harm to birds or aquatic life, cancers or other human harm. Predictions of an upsurge in cancer and extinction of birds failed to materialize. Not one human has ever been seriously harmed or died from its use or abuse, and robins to eagles flourished during and after its 30 year use in the United States. DDT is practically insoluble in water, so no aquatic toxicity is possible and soil bacteria destroy it in a few weeks or months, ending any persistence.
It is cheaper than other insecticides, and is safer and easier to make, handle and distribute. The claims that insects in poor countries developed immunity to it are false or grossly overblown. (Also, many African countries lacking transportation infrastructure never used DDT in the past so that development of resistance was impossible.) India never participated in the ban, manufactures its own DDT and uses it judiciously with occurrence of very little resistance. The UN standards for allowing use of DDT include unrealistic proof of NO DDT resistance in the area. That’s proving a negative, which is impossible. The aim is not to exterminate every mosquito, but to reduce their numbers until there are no more human carriers.
In addition to DDT treatment on interior walls for mosquito control, insect and parasite control must also include replacing thatched roofs where mosquitos hide with metal or tile, sealing the interior of homes from insects with wire screens that allow cooling air in but exclude insects, as well as education, fly swatters and glue strips, clean water to prevent dysentery and waterborne parasites, shoes/ sandals to keep pinworms and other parasites from entering through the feet, closed toilets, preferably with septic systems, to reduce fly-borne diseases.
Malaria Facts: Malaria drugs can cure malaria if available, but symptoms only appear after 9 to 14 days or longer, by which time there may be liver or kidney damage. Once symptoms appear, malaria can kill in as little as one day or persist for weeks or relapse over a longer period of time. Reinfection is possible since the parasite imparts only partial immunity. Each bout of malaria destroys red blood cells equivalent to a pint of blood, resulting in chronic anemia and kidney damage from repeated bouts for much of the African population. Babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly and the infirm are especially vulnerable.
The malaria parasite requires both humans and mosquitos to complete its life cycle. Mosquitos are “born” clean and must pick up the parasite (Plasmodium sp.) from an infected person. It takes another 10 days for the parasite to change into the stage that is infectious to humans. No infected humans, no malaria even though the mosquito vector may still exist. That is why it did not recur in North American and European countries when DDT was banned after 30 years’ use. Human malaria does not infect animals and vice versa, with the rare exception of Plasmodium knowlesi, a primate species found in Southeast Asia.
Power Plants: Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity. Based on CO2 reduction, Climate Change advocates and international agreements provide funding preferentially for renewable energy such as solar and wind power, which are unreliable, intermittent, environmentally harmful and require exotic elements, meanwhile discouraging or prohibiting development of power plants based on abundant fossil fuel, (coal, oil or natural gas), hydroelectric, geothermal or nuclear energy. Hydroelectric power is necessarily clean, renewable and sustainable, but is hated by environmentalists for assumed harm to ecosystems. Earlier successes in other countries over time have proven this assumption false except for temporary local effects. Nature adapts. (NOTE: the huge areas cleared for wind “farms” disrupt the environment far more than conventional hydroelectric or hydrocarbon fueled power plants.)
Solar and wind power are, by their nature, inconsistent, unreliable and intermittent. Solar only works during the day when the sky is clear or nearly clear. Wind only works on windy days, but only in a narrow range of velocities; too slow doesn’t generate power; too fast and both blades and generators are damaged un less switched off. Wind power kills birds and bats that are important for insect control, and creates infrasound that is harmful to humans and animals. Both solar and wind power require backup generation by other means: fossil fuel, hydroelectric, etc. Solar and wind power are only useful as supplemental sources so they are at best temporary solutions. Single home solar panels are only a feel-good drop in the bucket for the estimated 600 million needy people in sub Saharan Africa. It would be impossible to supply enough of these to make much of a difference, and is at best a temporary solution until rural power systems can be provided. Arguments against other types of power plants usually involved cost of installing transmission lines. However, except for single home solar systems, all types of power have the same requirements, including solar and wind, which require more lines to harvest the power from the sources.
It is well documented that environmentalists have stopped or prevented over 200 hydroelectric dams in Africa, although it is the most sustainable, reliable, cleanest and safest energy source and uses conventional materials and technology. Hydroelectric power doesn’t require huge dam projects. Systems based on even small waterfalls, dams or run-of-the-river systems can supply local power much sooner and cheaper. African rivers have sufficient hydroelectric power generation capacity to supply all of the continent’s needs for the foreseeable future. Only a tiny fraction of it has been developed. One ray of hope is the large Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on the upper Nile with a capacity of 6000 MW. For comparison, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt has 2100 MW capacity and Cohora Brassa in Mozambique has 2075 MW capacity. There are already a number of medium to small capacity systems in Africa including three plants at Victoria Falls. Many more are possible and needed. India was an early pioneer and has become a leader in hydroelectric power generation, exports power and provides engineering support for new systems to other countries.
Geothermal energy is available in seismically active areas in Africa, mostly in the Rift Valley. By sinking wells into thermal strata, steam or hot water can be used to run electricity generators. The technology is well established but development is just beginning in Africa. Other sources of electrical power generation include biomass and tidal generators. Biomass has major drawbacks, including pollution and loss of vegetation from biomass burning. Nuclear is among the cleanest power sources with no emissions, and only limited waste handling issues. Fear of nuclear power is mostly propaganda citing a few rare catastrophes.
The way out of Energy Poverty should involve an all-of-the-above approach, including fossil fuels, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, tidal, biomass and wind. The need is too great in lost lives and productivity to wait. The need is urgent. Once Energy Poverty is eliminated and other systems are in place, then fossil and bio-fuel power plants could be phased out or reduced in favor of hydroelectric, geothermal and nuclear power.
Availability of reliable electricity and natural gas are important for economic development, industry and medical infrastructure as well as home cooking and refrigeration, which are needed to provide a safe, clean food supply and to reduce harmful indoor air pollution from bio-fueled cooking and heating fires. Electricity can solve a host of other problems including water purification, sanitation, roads, railroads, airstrips, access to markets and medical facilities.
Clean Water and Sanitation: Lives and health are impacted by holding as a low priority the development of village clean water wells or providing city slums with at least rudimentary piped-in purified water and sanitation systems. The environmentalist myth of dwindling global water supplies and limited resources is included in the justification of these policies, although village wells and reservoirs behind even modest hydroelectric dams could supply all their needs. Many African women spend hours each day carrying water from streams and lakes, which contains dangerous bacteria and parasites. The result of this is high infant and childhood mortality from intestinal parasites and diarrhea, the number one killer of young children in poor countries.
Sanitation is also needed but ignored, now consisting of open pit toilets, at best, or simply defecation and urination in fields and streams. Flies carry disease from these sources, including tuberculosis (TB), leprosy, typhoid, cholera, dysentery, polio, anthrax, salmonella, parasite eggs and numerous other diseases. With electricity, water pumping and purification as well as flush toilets and local sewage treatment plants are possible. As a start, clean water wells with manual pumps are needed in local villages as well as replacing open pit toilets with septic systems that enclose waste. Without electricity, both hand pumped clean water wells and improved pit toilets to end open defecation can and should be made available as soon as possible.
Transportation: The development of roads and railroads needed for economic development and access to healthcare facilities, employment opportunities and markets is discouraged or prohibited, as disruptive to wildlife habitats. Roads and railroads are erroneously assumed to break up habitats, isolate wildlife populations and disrupt seasonal migration patterns. All of these myths have been thoroughly refuted in areas where new roads and pipelines have not disrupted migration and sometimes resulted in more not less wildlife.
Modern Agriculture: Modern agricultural methods and high yield crops are discouraged or prevented in favor of less productive, more labor intensive subsistence, so-called sustainable, aka organic, farming, “for the good of the environment.” This has the opposite effect and causes soil depletion that naturally results in slash and burn deforestation as depleted fields must be abandoned for freshly cleared land. Modern agriculture is a more sustainable practice, requiring only rotation of crops on fewer acres than subsistence farming and greatly increased yields per acre. Higher yield per acre means fewer acres are needed to feed a population, saves forests and makes surplus produce available to sell or trade. Modern agriculture using fertilizers, pesticides and improved crop varieties are opposed by organic farming organizations and subsidizing governments in developed nations. The Green Revolution of improved varieties and practices, available for 50 years, has been applied successfully in some African nations, but only in areas with adequate roads for access to markets. Building the transportation infrastructure could facilitate introduction of modern agriculture in less developed areas.
GMO[ii] aka Biotech and Improved Crops: Banning or discouraging the use of more productive, more drought, insect and disease resistant and more nutritious conventional high yield and GMO crops for improved yields and better nutrition is a crime against humanity. For example, GMO Golden Rice, provides vitamin A that could end the cycle of blindness and death among the poor whose diets are dominated by rice. The European Union has a ban on all agricultural products, not just GMO, from countries that grow any GMO crops. This ban is largely based on protecting subsidized European farmers from competition by African, Asian and American produce.
Governments of many poor countries choose to ban GMO crops so they can sell their produce to the European Union, not because of any fears of GMO scare stories propagated by anti-GMO advocacy groups. These advocacy groups are backed by Western organic farming organizations to suppress their domestic and imported competition from high yield conventional and GMO crops, thus increasing their market share. GMO is a term used by these groups for biotech improved varieties to imply harmful when it really means improved food crops by inserting specific genes to enhance characteristics such as higher nutrition and crop yields, drought, disease and insect resistance and reduced need for pesticides.
Contrary to scare stories, most companies have given away rights to many of these crops to help poor people, who can choose to grow them or not. Contrary to propaganda of anti-GMO advocates, no one is forced to grow GMO or buy any agricultural chemical. Propaganda would have you believe the big bad Monsanto is holding the world hostage, but the truth is that there are at least 60 developers in a dozen countries involving at least one beneficial modification in each of 30 varieties of fruits, vegetables and fibers. Why would so many develop and promote products that harm their customers? That’s illogical and ridiculous!
Industry: Environmentalists and communists discourage development of industry, including manufacturing and natural resource extraction (oil, gas, coal, minerals), as exploiting the workers and harmful to the environment, rather than, in reality, providing employment while raising the standard of living and improving environmental stewardship. The result is high unemployment, unabated poverty and an inability to care for the environment. Control of diseases that now cause high absenteeism and low productivity is as important as reliable electricity for industry. (see DDT above) Foreign and domestic investment and development should be encouraged. Support from industry could further economic and infrastructure development.
Medicine: The UN and environmental organizations have failed to make local medical facilities and medicines available to rural areas. This is tied to failure to provide adequate roads and railroads as well as natural gas and electrical power needed for these facilities and their availability to the rural poor. This is also linked to the population control agenda. In many areas, healing medicines and facilities are lacking essential medicines and devices, while birth control and sterilization facilities are well stocked.
Education: Failure to build schools or to provide instruction in hygiene, nutrition and childcare, and to train the people for skilled and semi-skilled labor, modern agriculture and small business administration. There is also a great need for higher learning facilities to provide medical, technical and leadership personnel.
HIV/AIDS: Diagnosis in rural areas based on symptoms without confirmation of the virus is an excuse for not treating longstanding endemic illnesses and malnutrition. Most of those “diagnosed” with AIDS in poor countries have not been tested for the actual HIV virus. They have been assumed to have HIV/AIDS through disparate symptoms such as fever, headache, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, chronic diarrhea and/or cough, all of which can be caused by malnutrition and many common parasites or infectious diseases as well as severe illnesses such as malaria or tuberculosis (TB). The United Nations has named TB as a leading indicator of AIDS. By the UN diagnosing AIDS from symptoms without lab tests, many TB and malaria victims were left untreated, resulting in higher death rates, (falsely attributed to HIV/AIDS).
While TB and other chronic illnesses often weaken the immune systems and cause acquired immune deficiency, i.e. AIDS, it has nothing to do with HIV or sexual behavior. This deception has a triple whammy for the UN. It excuses high death rates and failure to treat endemic diseases, it incentivizes HIV/AIDS research funding in developed countries by falsely declaring it a pandemic, and it has the potential for vindicating population control programs in the minds of potential donors by creating a false picture of rampant immorality and promiscuity. Even with HIV/AIDS diagnosis, treatment should concentrate on treating the presenting malnutrition and endemic diseases first, e.g. malaria, TB, etc., instead of starting with AIDS chemotherapy, which further depresses the immune system, or no treatment at all.
It should also be noted that those actually tested for HIV/AIDS in urban settings may be misdiagnosed due to low specificity of the test, failure to properly retest and several factors such as pregnancy or other diseases that cause false positives. Manufacturers of the tests require retesting by more than one type of detection protocol for confirmation. The unusually high incidence in South Africa, (60% female at a rate of 15-25% of the population compared to less than 2% in other countries,) may be due to administration at gynecological clinics and failure to retest by more than one method. Any retests are only done by the same protocol as the original diagnosis. Here again, treatment of the endemic diseases first is crucial. HIV/AIDS doesn’t kill people; it cripples the immune system and reduces resistance to other diseases. Note: retesting after HIV/AIDS treatment is started may result in false negatives so it is useless.
Cultural Preservation (Stagnation): Environmentalists promote preservation of primitive cultures in toto as of higher importance than developing higher standards of living while preserving cultural heritages. There is no harm to the cultural heritage by replacing thatched roofs with metal or tile roofs and adding doors and screens to keep out insects and small animals, as well as other “modern” improvements such as electric lights, refrigerators and stoves; a clean water well and proper toilets; a road passable by vehicles to get to markets and clinics, etc.
Political Unrest: Failure to address political corruption, violence and terrorism creates a climate that tends to keep out aid workers from charitable organizations. It also puts roadblocks in the way of developing the economy, industry, education, healthcare, electrical power and transportation infrastructure. Violence in any form must be controlled for development to advance. Pressure by international organizations should be applied to address corrupt governments, lawlessness and violence.
Anticolonial propaganda was and is spread by socialists and communists as a way to control the people and make them suspicious of development efforts by Western charities. Muslim groups have also propagated these scare stories. In the 1960s the Soviet Union stirred up anti-colonialism among African nations leading to demands for independence from colonial powers without adequate preparation for proper self-governance. This was #43 of the 45 Communist Goals revealed by Dr. Cleon Skousen in his 1958 book The Naked Communist and read into the Congressional Record in 1963, “#43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.” 35 African nations became independent in the 1960s, half a dozen in the late 1950s and a similar number in the 1970s. Of course, a large part of the blame falls on the colonial powers that failed to prepare the people for self government or to develop sufficient infrastructure needed for economic development. Rather than a fast overthrow without preparation, a more gradual training and handing over of the government would have prepared them better for self-government and avoided much of the political upheaval, power struggles and violence.
In Summary: As can be readily seen, these priorities are upside down, many having the opposite effect of their stated goals. Keeping people on bare subsistence almost guarantees high birth rates to help farm and in anticipation of high infant and childhood mortality, while causing maximum harm to the environment.
To develop a robust economy, a healthy workforce and infrastructure to facilitate economic development are needed. By far, disease control and electrical power are most needed and can drive development. DDT and electricity could jump-start this development followed by transportation, clean water, sanitation, and medical facilities. Control of insect borne diseases would eliminate high rates of employee absenteeism, encourage both domestic and foreign investment in manufacturing and other industries, and provide much needed jobs and money to raise families out of poverty.
Private corporations in Western countries need to take a fresh look at Africa for investment in foreign production in lieu of communist China. Investment in infrastructure could produce significant benefits while raising the standard of living of millions and developing new markets and protecting the environment. Such successes could have a domino effect. Small starts can become large movements. Already, the future is bright in cities where adequate infrastructure has attracted foreign and domestic investment. In these areas, business sectors outside agriculture and extractive industries are making significant progress.
Get involved. You can do your part as individuals by donating to worthy charities, not UN and Red Cross/Crescent, which squander donations and work through corrupt governments. World Vision http://www.wvi.org/about-world-vision and Samaritan’s Purse https://www.samaritanspurse.org/ ) lead my list of worthy charities for helping needy people directly. Both feature designated donations and have Christmas catalogues that allow donors to buy shares of projects such as clean water wells, medicines, schools, cattle and small animals, agriculture and small business training and support, etc.
[i] See part 1 for more information at International Organizations deny essential services to poor countries, Part 1
[ii] GMO or “Genetically Modified Organisms” is a term invented by the Organic Farming Industry to scare people into avoiding such improved foods. “Non-GMO” is an ignorant term that is used for advertising purposes and to placate Big Organic’s smear campaigns. There is absolutely no benefit to it. The better terms are Precision Agriculture or Biotech Crops. So-called GMO involves a process where a specific plant gene is inserted into a plant to give it beneficial characteristics. Earlier plant breeding processes used a shotgun approach where whole genomes are involved in cross breeding or radiation treatment, and hoping that more beneficial than harmful genes will show up in some off-spring.
By NJ Ayuk, Chairman, African Energy Chamber After three days in Glasgow for COP26, you can’t help but ask yourself where do we go from here as an African energy sector. I maintain my disappointment with the global elites for failing to invite the oil and gas industry. Oh well, they invited me. With dire […]
Gas-To-Power – An Opportunity that Africa Can’t Toss Away after COP26 (By NJ Ayuk)
Gas-to-power initiatives — the development and expansion of gas-powered electricity plants — are not new to Africa, but they are building momentum
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, November 4, 2021/APO Group/ —
By NJ Ayuk, Chairman, African Energy Chamber
After three days in Glasgow for COP26, you can’t help but ask yourself where do we go from here as an African energy sector. I maintain my disappointment with the global elites for failing to invite the oil and gas industry. Oh well, they invited me.
With dire warnings about the impending dangers of climate change clouding the headlines on a daily basis, energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is a hot topic. Talk of banning fossil fuels altogether floats among the more liberal circles in the United States and Europe as companies scramble to crank out acres of solar cells and plant forests of windmills. In May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) proposed banning any new investment in fossil fuels after 2021, and we’re already seeing significant divestment in oil and gas projects around the globe. I responded to their publicity stunt and I still stand by my response (https://bit.ly/3bIjd4s).[i]
As I said at that time “we live in reality. And today, in real-world Africa, this goal is not feasible. Nor is it advisable”
The threat of climate change is real, and the goal of lessening it is noble, but what is often forgotten in these discussions are the repercussions of a rapid shift from fossil fuels, particularly in developing nations like those in Africa. Countries that have enjoyed over a century of energy development and near-universal electrification did so first by exploiting their own natural resources to the fullest extent possible — a right not everyone has been able to exercise equally. While the developed world can afford to take risks and think about sloughing off old industries, large parts of Africa are still struggling to provide their people with reliable electricity. As a result, industrialization and economic stability have remained out of reach for large swaths of the continent. Education, already a challenge in impoverished communities, is even harder. So is the provision of health care.
These are some of the reasons the African Energy Chamber has become an outspoken advocate for continued natural gas production: Gas-to-power initiatives — the development and expansion of gas-powered electricity plants — are not new to Africa, but they are building momentum. They are a practical way to address energy poverty and they make sense for Africa. This is not the time to pressure African countries to abandon them.
Living in the Dark
It is not an exaggeration to say energy poverty is one of our continent’s most pressing problems: Only 56% of Africa’s population has access to electricity today, and in many places that power is still inadequate and unreliable at best. We address this topic in our recently released report, The State of African Energy 2022.
“Comprehensive energy access across the continent remains a central target, with some 600 million people without access to electricity today,” says the report. “Moreover, households themselves, facing low and inadequate supply of electricity, often rely on highly polluting traditional energy sources such as hard biomass, which constitutes 45% of total primary energy demand in Africa.”
As Africa’s population grows rapidly, the continent cannot sustain the mass burning of its plant life in hearth fires indefinitely, nor can the rest of the world afford to let it. Replicating the bad old days of black coal smoke pouring from tall towers isn’t an option either. Africa needs modern power sources to compete on the world stage and to do its part to fight global climate change. On the surface, renewables sound like the ideal solution — sunshine and wind are certainly plentiful, after all. It would be wonderful to kip a century and turn all of Africa into Black Panther’s Wakanda with the newest green technologies–but this isn’t a movie, and real life is never that simple.
Comprehensive energy access across the continent remains a central target, with some 600 million people without access to electricity today
The Downside of Wind and Solar
Many existing power grids in Africa remain underdeveloped, such that an intermittent supply of energy can threaten the stability of an entire grid. Such is the case in Kenya, which is widely considered to be at the forefront of Africa’s energy transition, building momentum in the renewable sector with the 310 MW Lake Turkana wind farm and 50 MW Garissa solar PV station. Some 15% of Kenya’s installed capacity comes from solar and wind, but as our 2022 Outlook reports, they have experienced severe voltage instability. Better system management, upgraded infrastructure, and long-term power storage technology are needed to solve these problems, but implementing these things on a nationwide or continent-wide scale won’t happen overnight.
Another problem plaguing renewables development is near-complete reliance on overseas manufacturing and expertise. The majority of solar cells and windmills are made in China, like so much else, with most of the rest made in Europe and the USA. Those same countries also provide the primary supply of knowledge, training, and technology for installing, maintaining, and repairing renewable facilities. Economically, this means fewer home-grown jobs for Africans in this sector until such capacity can be developed. It also ensures security of supply in case war or politics cripples the ability to import key materials and workers.
Energy demand across Africa is expected to triple within the next 20 years–faster than anywhere else in the world — as a result of population growth, rising incomes, and rapid urbanization. To meet such rapidly accelerating demand, Africa needs the ability to make use of its existing natural resources and human capital, and to employ tried-and-true solutions that will reliably keep the lights on when the wind won’t blow and the sun won’t shine. Mitigating climate change must remain part of the equation, but the perfect cannot be allowed to be the enemy of the good when so many people are still starting from zero.
Why Gas-to-Power Makes Sense in Africa
When it comes to reliability, fossil fuels remain the standard by which all other energy sources are judged, and natural gas is the cleanest among them by far. All of sub-Saharan Africa could triple its electricity use overnight using only natural gas and still account for only a 1% increase in global emissions, so low is its starting point.
Gas power also pairs better with wind and solar than other clean power sources. Unlike coal, hydro, nuclear, or geothermal generators, gas turbines can power up and down quickly, making them ideal as backup for wind and solar when the weather isn’t cooperating and increasing the reliability of the power supply. Gas turbines require less up-front capital investment than most other generating equipment, and they have the advantage of being modular as well for quicker deployment. Until wind and solar become more reliable, gas has the potential to keep coal out of the fuel supply and displace older, dirtier equipment running on diesel or fuel oil, while ensuring that a growing society’s basic needs are met.
Africa already is seeing the benefits of its growing liquified natural gas (LNG) sector. As the 2022 Outlook reports, LNG-to-power has the potential to help build a resilient, low-emission power infrastructure across the continent.
The report cites promising developments in Ghana:
Ghana is set to commission the first sub-Saharan Africa’s LNG-to-power project at Tema LNG Terminal. A floating regasification unit arrived from China in January 2021 and it will be able to deliver 1.7 million tons of natural gas per year for power generation. Ghana’s electricity consumption remains lower than the average over the sub-Saharan region and far below that of developed countries. Bridge Power project in Tema will have the capacity to produce 400MW of electricity from liquefied natural gas. This is equivalent to the power consumption of 1.6 million average Ghanaian homes.
And this is only one example: From new gas-to-power projects in Tanzania to the construction of gas pipelines in Nigeria, African countries are poised to produce, transport, and harness natural gas to boost their power capacities.
And why shouldn’t they? A total of 25 countries on the continent have proven natural gas reserves, 11 of which are currently generating power from their own domestic production in sub-Saharan Africa. Oil and gas are the largest sources of income for many of these countries and have been for decades, giving Africa a substantial well of experience and expertise among its own population to build on. Ceasing oil and gas development in these markets would be devastating both economically and politically, potentially even leading to government collapse and drastically increased poverty. Allowing Africans to build on what they already have increases social stability and the capacity to further develop technological capability.
Ultimately, Africans deserve the same level of energy access and security that the rest of the world takes for granted. The number of people left behind is simply too large to allow foreign agendas to take viable options off the table. If Africans are to do their part in solving the world’s biggest problems such as climate change, they have to be enabled to control their own destinies and participate on their own terms. Gas-to-power is a means to that end, and a brighter future for Africa could mean a brighter future for us all.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.
Gas-To-Power – An Opportunity that Africa Can’t Toss Away after COP26 (By NJ Ayuk)
By NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber (www.EnergyChamber.org)
On May 18, 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released “Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector,” which outlines plans for the global energy sector to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Achieving net zero emissions means the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere would equal the amount being removed. Achieving this balance, the IEA maintains, would require more than aggressive carbon-capture measures: It would call for a swift and immediate shift from petroleum energy sources to energy provided through naturally replenished sources like wind, water, and solar power.
From an environmental standpoint, this is a great concept.
But we live in reality. And today, in real-world Africa, this goal is not feasible. Nor is it advisable. While I agree with their data on many topics, the IEA’s conclusion is flat-out wrong on this issue. Africa needs oil and gas.
Some of the critical steps in IEA’s roadmap include:
No new investment in new fossil fuel supply (including oil and gas) after 2021
No new sales of fossil fuel boilers after 2025
No new internal combustion engine (ICE) car sales after 2035 globally
60% of car sales are electric by 2030, and 50% of heavy truck sales are electric from 2035
These steps assume a lot about the state of the world — assumptions that are faulty, especially for Africa. For one, it will require universal energy access by 2030, meaning that everyone has access to electricity and clean cooking. And with approximately 592 million Africans currently without this access, we’re going to be hard-pressed to flip that switch in less than 10 years.
The IEA’s roadmap to net zero also relies on unprecedented investments in renewables — a substantial boost in clean energy investments from the $1 trillion made over the last five years all the way up to $5 trillion annually by 2030 — and cooperation from policymakers who are unified in their efforts. In this idyllic partnership, our Western counterparts talk a good game. But the fact is, to date, these same Western countries have invested little to no funding into Africa’s renewables space. To our dismay even the International Oil Companies that have tried to accept the IEA’s publicity stunt have little or no renewable projects in Africa.
“For many developing countries, the pathway to net zero without international assistance is not clear,” OPEC wrote in response to IEA’s roadmap release, issuing a “critical assessment” on the very same day. “Technical and financial support is needed to ensure deployment of key technologies and infrastructure. Without greater international co‐operation, global CO2 emissions will not fall to net zero by 2050.”
As I have stated in the past, demonizing energy companies is not a constructive way forward, and ignoring the role that carbon-based fuels have played in driving human progress distorts the public debate. We cannot expect African nations, which together emitted seven times less CO2 than China last year and four times less than the US, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, to undermine their best opportunities for economic development by simply aligning with the Western view of how to tackle carbon emissions.
Creating New Problems
China, meanwhile, appears willing to continue investing in fossil fuel projects in Africa. This means that to keep their nations energized, African governments will have little choice but to partner with China — whose performance is notoriously poor when it comes to environmental protection, despite having signed the Paris climate accord. In this scenario, China will become the most influential entity in the African oil and gas industry. And giving China (or any foreign entity) such a monopoly is a dangerous play.
For the IEA plan to work, no new oil and natural gas fields would be developed. The potential energy security risk here is twofold: Concentrated production means that demand will exceed the supply of traditional fuels, while new energy security issues emerge related to the new technologies such as cybersecurity and a dwindling supply of rare earth and critical minerals. And energy insecurity brings economic insecurity and geopolitical instability.
At the same time, a ban on fossil fuel production would bring about the collapse of many carbon-dependent governments. The oil industry is the primary source of income for many African nations. Without the continuation of petroleum production — or time and opportunities to cultivate new revenue sources — their economies will suffer — along with their citizens.
Interestingly, the very announcement of this roadmap features an admission by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol that net zero will unhinge socioeconomic structures.
“This gap between rhetoric and action needs to close if we are to have a fighting chance of reaching net zero by 2050 and limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 °C. Doing so requires nothing short of a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies,” Birol wrote.
And many of the world’s economies cannot bear this.
Excellent Points from Australia
Energy officials from Australia, for example — incidentally, one of the IEA member countries — had plenty to say in response.
“There are many, ways to get to net zero, and the IEA just looked at one narrow formula,” said Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief Andrew McConville. “The IEA report doesn’t take into account future negative emission technologies and offsets from outside the energy sector — two things that are likely to happen and will allow vital and necessary future development of oil and gas fields.”
In urging policymakers to maintain a degree of skepticism about the wisdom of the IEA roadmap, McConville isn’t alone.
“We are bringing emissions down,” stated Angus Taylor, Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, “but we’re going to do it in a way that ensures we’ve got that affordable power that Australians need.”
Rather than being dictated to by entities abroad, Taylor argued that Australia must proceed at a pace that makes sense locally. And part of these local considerations includes ensuring that people have energy and jobs. The IEA’s call to cease investment in fossil fuels will impede both of these metrics.
“Global gas demand is forecast to grow by 1.5% on average per year out to 2025, providing incentive to ensure our large gas fields … are developed as soon as possible,” said Keith Pitt, Minister for Resources. “Large upcoming offshore developments … will create thousands of new high-wage jobs.”
The same holds true for African countries.
While environmental causes are a major focus in the West, lawmakers in Africa’s developing countries are more concerned with living wages and supplying basic necessities to the continent’s growing population.
The IEA plan amounts to austerity measures that would see Africans leaving petroleum resources in the ground. It would essentially brand poor Africans criminals — or at the very least enemies of the environment — for using fossil fuels.
This is folly. Let’s keep in mind the critical role that natural gas is playing in the global transition to clean energy: It’s an affordable and reliable bridge to renewables. And natural gas is particularly important to Africa. As I’ve written in the past, the African Energy Chamber’s 2021 Africa Energy Outlook report projects that African gas production and consumption are going to rise in the 2020s. As a result, Africa’s natural gas sector will soon be responsible for large-scale job creation, increased opportunities for monetization and economic diversification, and critical gas-to-power initiatives that will bring more Africans reliable electricity. These significant benefits should not be dismissed in the name of achieving net zero emissions on deadline. To tell African countries with gas potential like Mozambique, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Libya, Algeria, South Africa, Angola and many others that they cant monetize their gas and rather wait for foreign aid and handouts from their western counterparts makes no sense.
What’s more, we can’t overlook the fact that renewable energy solutions are still young technologies —they are less reliable and more expensive per unit of power than tried-and-true petroleum products. Not only that, but achieving net zero by 2050 would require widespread adoption of technologies that are not even available yet.
Don’t get me wrong: I understand the importance of working toward renewables. I believe they are the future of the energy industry. But the global energy transition must be inclusive, equitable, and just. Unfortunately, the roadmap laid out by the IEA is none of these.
The IEA is a respected institution whose opinions help shape the rhetoric of the global energy market. So instead of mandating these strict guidelines from abroad, the IEA should try working with African countries to find solutions that we can actually abide. At the very least, I encourage the IEA to consider partnerships with African Private sector and financial institutions, whose collaboration with indigenous and international energy stakeholders provides invaluable insight from all sides across the energy industry. The IEA should use its voice to push for what I have always believe Africa needs the most at this time, free markets, personal responsibility, less regulation, low taxes, limited government, individual liberties, and economic empowerment will boost African energy markets and economies.
Africa deserves the chance to capitalize on its own oil and gas to strengthen itself, rather than being bullied onto a path determined by Western institutions that don’t face the same obstacles. We must be able to improve our energy sector by exploring our continent’s full potential in a way that benefits our people.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.
Net Zero? Not For Africa. Not Yet. Africa Must Fight Energy Poverty with Oil and Gas Development (By NJ Ayuk)
Africanews provides content from APO Group as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes.
The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) has approved a $1 million grant for modernization of Africa’s aging hydropower fleet. The grant will fund the mapping and evaluation of African hydropower facilities’ rehabilitation needs. It will also support the preparation of modernization works for two pilot facilities to a bankable stage, a move expected to add 200 […]