‘Africa must prioritise cleaner fuels in net zero emissions targets’

With its growing petroleum products demands and huge population growth over the next two decades, Africa must first focus on cleaner transport and cooking fuels to reduce air pollution and avert public health issues before embarking on global Net Zero Emissions (NZE) energy transition plans, according to the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA).

ARDA’s Executive Secretary and former Chief Operating Officer, Refining & Petrochemicals at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Anibor Kragha, disclosed this during a virtual IPIECA Roundtable on Energy Transition and Net Zero Emissions, which included the UN Environment Programme and speakers covering views from investors and international organisations, industry initiatives and regional perspectives.

Kragha’s presentation titled “Challenges Africa faces in light of the global drive towards Net Zero Emissions” insisted that the recent IEA Net Zero Emissions by 2050 proposal remained a pathway that is global in nature, but Africa’s unique path needs to reflect strategies about the continent’s stage of economic development.

According to him, Africa must focus its limited public funding on cleaner transport and cooking fuels and the associated distribution infrastructure in the near-term rather than on energy transition via expensive, unproven renewables technology.

“As the IEA NZE by 2050 report states that the majority of the technology needed to deliver net zero emissions is still in development stage, Africa cannot afford to make the technological jump to replace cooking and transport fuels with renewables now but can adopt proven, cost-effective renewables technology later,” he said.

Kragha also urged African governments to prioritize policies to address public health and environmental issues and to utilize the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to address intra-African trade challenges and complex, inefficient supply chains that may impede implementation of cost-effective cleaner energy solutions in future via a harmonised African Energy Transition Plan.

The ARDA Executive Secretary said that Africa’s energy transition roadmap needs to include separate implementation strategies for cleaner transport and cooking fuels, lower-carbon power generation and eventually sustainable renewable energy solutions.

In addition, a measured, decade-by-decade sustainable finance plan from 2020 to 2050 would be required to ensure investments are made to deliver a unique African Energy Transition Plan.

The first decade (now until 2030) to him, should focus primarily on cleaner transport and cooking fuels with projects like refinery upgrades to produce AFRI-6 (10-ppm sulphur) fuels, LPG to replace biomass as a cleaner cooking fuel alternative and gas-to-power energy solution.

The second decade (2030-2040) should focus on further development of LPG for clean cooking initiatives, more gas-to-power projects, regional storage and distribution infrastructure, some biofuels as well as adoption of proven renewables technologies like solar and wind.

During the third decade (2040-2050), by which time improved technological innovation should have resulted in mature, Kragh said cost-effective renewables technology solutions, Africa can then focus on proven renewables technology for offshore wind, Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS), hydrogen, ammonia and sustainable aviation fuels.

According to Kragha, this measured approach to achieving Net Zero Emissions will ensure that Africa, which currently is responsible for only 2-3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, can focus on near-term priorities and policies that address the potential public health concerns facing its citizens, while developing its own unique energy transition roadmap that ensures the continent only adopts proven, cost-effective technology at a steady, progressive pace.