The African Energy Chamber’s Energy Transition Committee held its first meeting of the year, to discuss the pressing issues surrounding the global trend towards energy transition, from the viewpoint of African countries. The energy transition phenomenon has gained significant traction as a direct result of the coronavirus shutting down economies and growing concerns for the devastating effects of climate change. Countries and companies around the world are increasingly investing into renewable and low carbon projects, while simultaneously divesting and putting a stop to traditional fossil fuel projects. Some companies are even changing their names to reflect this trend: Total just recently launched its new name, Total Energies; Statoil has become Equinor; Savannah Petroleum has become Savannah Energy. What does this mean for the African continent, which emits just under 3% of the world’s carbon emissions and still has close to 700 million people without access to power?
The Committee’s discussion unpacked the complex intertwined issues around energy production, access to energy, energy poverty and global equity. As the African Energy Chamber, representing a wide range of stakeholders in the industry, it is imperative that we must continue to critique the rhetoric of energy transition and bring out a nuanced viewpoint on how this applies to the incredibly diverse African continent. For instance, should we agree to Africa’s transition mirroring that of more developed regions like North America and Western Europe? The premise implies that there is an existing embedded and established energy infrastructure in Africa, similar to Western Europe, from which the continent will transition from. The reality on the ground is that the average citizen across Africa lacks reliable, affordable, easily accessible energy to be able to pursue opportunities and live a dignified life. Therefore, we at the African Energy Chamber cannot embrace a one size fits all narrative, pushing the energy transition agenda where it is not in fact fit for purpose.
Akinwole Omoboriowo II, Chairman and CEO of Genesis Energy Holding, Board Member with the Chamber emphasised: “The African continent will continue to require a balanced energy mix to meet its needs. In the short-term, that’s to say the next 30 to 50 years – we must continue to industrialise on the continent. Gas will play a critical role in making that happen and renewable energy, where appropriate also has a role to play.”
Moreover, fellow Committee Member Rémi Mouchel, Director of Operations and Chairman of the Executive Board at IFP Training and Chamber Board Member went on to add: “Part of the energy transition for African countries will include looking at ways to apply technology to produce cleaner fossil fuel energy. We must extend the perimeter of this energy transition discourse.”
Indeed, while projects on the African continent represent a mere 6% of International Oil Companies’ global footprint, since the start of the pandemic, project after project has been delayed or cancelled, heralding a change in investment priorities. This has had devastating effects on hundreds of millions of Africans. From loss of jobs, to lost revenue for governments and the increase of dependency on imported energy. Millions of people living across Africa need reliable, affordable and easily accessible energy to be able build businesses. That much is not up for debate.
Climate change is real and must be addressed. The African Energy Chamber, with the support of its members and Advisory Board will continue to champion a sensible path towards energy transition in Africa. We believe, that the realities of the millions of Africans who rightfully aspire for affordable and reliable energy must be an integral part of the global energy transition discourse. We shall continue to strongly advocate for that, even when it goes against the grain. We must showcase the bold, innovative and enterprising projects that require funding, we must push for using Africa’s energy resources to bring about socio-economic development and prosperity for all.