While Africa is responsible for a relatively small proportion of global emissions, its nations will have a major impact on our planet’s future as they respond to skyrocketing local demand and develop increased energy capacity, say three authors of a new DLA Piper Africa report.
Energy demand is expected to double in Africa by around 2030, which places a focus on how that demand can be met, notes DLA Piper partner James Carter, part of a large team behind the Africa Energy Futures report released late November. The report surveys the status, challenges and opportunities relating to energy transition and renewables across 21 African nations.
As is apparent from the report, Carter emphasised that “it is neither possible nor helpful to generalise about the progress of energy transition across Africa. Different countries in Africa are at different stages in their energy evolution, with the extent and nature of transition in each country – including the extent of short term commitment to renewables – dependent on that and their particular energy needs.”
Africa is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the global drive toward energy transition because of its abundant resources, said Kizzita Mensah, a partner at Reindorf Chambers, DLA Piper Africa, Ghana. However, she is also clear that while many African nations have recognised the need to develop renewable energy, they have also recognised the importance of balancing that goal against the priorities of ensuring consistent access to energy and grid development.
“What comes through in our report is that in every country there’s at least some sort of policy or legislative framework addressing renewable energy,” reflected Mensah. “While some are more advanced than others, in general the will is there, the awareness is there, and the participation on the global stage is there. There was good participation from African nations at COP26.”
Carter, Mensah and their fellow contributor, Charles Allin, all point to natural gas being a valuable interim step for Africa as the world moves from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.
“It’s an enormous sea change to transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to one entirely based upon renewables,” said Allin. “You need only look at what’s happened in the UK to see the difficulty when it comes to baseload energy. When the wind doesn’t blow enough, we need to import more gas. It’s not as simple as a straight end to fossil fuel development and a direct transition to solar, wind, hydro and geothermal. Gas will have a significant transitional role to play in Africa.”
Increasing grid capacity in African nations through natural gas can be a key part of a green solution, notes Carter, as it will reduce rolling shutdowns where those affected turn towards diesel-burning generators. The flaring of natural gas that comes out of oil development can also be harvested and used as a fuel and energy source.
While there are many challenges ahead for African nations – particularly in the areas of funding energy projects, implementation, and updating national legislation and regulatory frameworks to reflect new technologies – the report’s contributors also believe there are great opportunities ahead for businesses and investors across the energy sector in Africa.
“Africa as an energy lead driven by its own energy demands is a realistic part of the story we hope to be telling over the next ten years,” said Carter. “That’s not just about servicing those demands, but also about making the most of the continent’s natural advantages and being a centre for technology and development which allows the continent to be a major player in global energy transition.”
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