Ainojie ‘Alex’ Irune, President & Chief Executive Officer of Oando Clean, has suggested that a combination of renewable energy, natural gas, and low-carbon hydrogen could be the solution to Africa’s energy dilemma of choosing between poverty and decarbonization.
He made this known in a recent interview with the Financial Times, seen by EnergyDay.
The OANDO Clean Energy CEO in the interview identified a differentiated energy development pathway that recognises Africa’s peculiarities and sets the continent on a pathway to universal access to energy and transition, without compromising its development efforts.
According to him, For Africa, the energy transition is about access, security, and affordability. He added that the continent is still struggling to provide modern energy access to its population.
He therefore suggested that, in the short term, a mix of renewable energy sources, natural gas, and low-carbon hydrogen will be critical in expanding modern energy access, emphasising that Africa cannot afford to be decarbonized into poverty.
A mix of natural gas and renewable sources, according to him, would not only help the continent to achieve its energy-related development goals but also bring multiple benefits in terms of investment, natural gas savings, and avoided CO₂ emissions.
EnergyDay gathered that Irune’s recommendation is coming at a time when the world is moving towards a low-carbon future, and African countries are poised to capture the technology spillovers of these changes and attract increasing flows of climate finance.
He said, “For Africa, the concept of a just transition is an inflection point beyond decarbonisation and global climate objectives. it is about the far-reaching implication of energy poverty on the continent’s socioeconomic development against a backdrop of growing energy demand and a teeming population actively demanding a better future.
“It is about equipping our people with the requisite expertise and resources to drive the right transition for the continent.
“Though referred to as the next renewable powerhouse, Africa has been unable to exploit its abundant but underutilized renewable energy resources because there are barriers to unlocking this in the near term, including developing our energy infrastructure amid the global climate crisis.
“Since the beginning of the industrial era, Africa has accounted for less than 4 percent of the world’s total cumulative greenhouse gas emissions. Still, the continent is on the front line of a climate crisis while the burden on economies and livelihoods is disproportionately high.
“Therefore, pushing for total abandonment of fossil-based fuel in favour of greener energy sources will further exacerbate energy poverty in a continent that, amidst all of the above, is struggling to play catch up in the race to industrialization,
“The energy mix is still being contended, the developed countries have a view of what it should be but as Africans, we have a different view and must be allowed to curate an energy mix that recognized our peculiarity and sets the continent on a pathway to an inclusive transition.
“A step in the right direction was made in this regard at the Executive Council of the African Union on July 15, 2022, where the African Union Commission adopted the African Common Position on Energy Access and Just Transition.
“This approach ensures Africa has the right to a differentiated energy development pathway to spur universal access to energy and transition without compromising its development efforts,” he said.
Irune also identifies four key actions that must be deployed as a prerequisite for a just transition in Africa, including de-risking and promoting private sector investment; a holistic approach to power generation; innovative financing, and instituting comprehensive policies to foster transformative decarbonization.
He said that “The African governments must create an enabling environment by developing and instituting policies to attract high-quality investments and boost public-private partnerships.
“They must improve and harmonise the regulatory framework for energy generations and invest in the modernisation and expansion of energy infrastructure,” Irune said.
Speaking about the role that the private sector can play in efficient delivery of investment in the renewable sector, Irune said that the investment required to meet Africa’s growing energy demands far outweigh the funds available from public sources.
According to him, the private sector, specifically oil and gas companies, have balance sheets that can take the risk to facilitate this transition.
He said, “The private sector will lead this transition and those must be encouraged by an enabling environment to do so. As leaders, in the private sector striving towards achieving a carbon-neutral Africa, we will continue to exploit the continent’s energy deficit.
He further noted that Africa has an enormous amount of renewable energy capacity, estimated to reach 310GW by 2030 in addition to its natural gas reserves.
“We must be deliberate about how we harness the resources within our reach, such as sunlight, and identify opportunities to produce energy in more carbon-friendly ways because the continent cannot afford to be decarbonized into poverty,” the Oando Clean Energy President said.