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Report deplores Africa’s reliance on fossil fuels and biomes

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A new report published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has deplored the fact that Africa countries rely mainly on fossil fuels and biomes and haven’t diversified to renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

Currently, 600 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and 900 million have no access to clean cooking fuel. Meanwhile, electricity access rates in 24 countries are below 50 per cent.

The report titled “Energy Prices in Africa: Transition Towards Clean Energy for Africa’s Industrialization,” deplores the fact that Africa relies mainly on fossil fuels and biomes instead of diversifying its primary energy supply, given its plethora of resources (renewable and non-renewable).

Speaking at the launch June 22, 2021, ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe said, “There’s no way Africa can build forward better if we do not make adequate investments in energy and ensure affordable access for all.”. She therefore, urged countries to ensure that there’s cost reflective pricing in the energy sector.

The report cites countries like Liberia, Malawi, Central African Republic, Burundi, and South Sudan as having stagnated or reversed in electricity access, while countries like Nigeria, DRC and Ethiopia reportedly have the biggest electricity access deficits.

“Access to cheap and clean energy is an essential component of Africa’s transformation and industrialization,” said Oliver Chinganya, Director of the African Centre for Statistics (ACS).

He added that, “in the context of AfCFTA deployment and implementation, supplying economies with affordable fuel is integral to supporting actions for faster achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa’s Agenda 2063.”

The report notes that households use 86 per cebt of biofuel and waste energy for cooking, while the transport sector consumes 78 per cent of oil. Natural gas is mainly used in industrial sector, it added.

Anthony Monganeli Mehlwana, ECA Economic Affairs Officer, highlighted the “urgent need to invest in electricity infrastructure, diversify electricity supply and embrace modern renewables.”

In terms of prices, Mr Mehlwana said “Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) or fossil power plants is more expensive” than wind and solar.

“Onshore wind costs $59 per MW while utility solar PV costs $79 per MW. Meanwhile, the cost of coal is $109 per MW and natural gas stands at $74 per MW,” he said.

According to Mehlwana,“high energy production costs, transmission and distribution losses (18-25 per cent) means that utilities need to be constantly bailed out and subsidies implemented for users.”

The report indicates that at this rate, and according to the SDG 7 tracking report, Africa will not meet the SDG 7 targets due to limited supply and access to electricity. About $40 billion worth of investments per year is needed to meet the continents energy needs, it said.

The report however, recommends that countries must provide an enabling environment for crowding-in private sector investments in electricity sector; apply cost reflective tariffs while paying attention to efficient generation of electricity to lower the costs; and provide incentives and mechanisms to increase the share of renewable energy in the power systems.

It also highlights the need for countries to introduce natural gas as a transitionary fuel to replace coal and facilitate full deployment of renewables.

By our reporter

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