America backs use of coal for fuel

Desmond Davies, London Bureau, London

London, July 28, GNA –
Ghana and major African coal-rich countries including South Africa and Nigeria
stand to gain from a statement by the US Treasury that Multilateral Development
Banks (MDBs) should re-think their opposition to the use of fossil fuels,
especially coal.

The announcement would
help countries to access the natural resources more cleanly and efficiently,
according to the experts.

US President Donald
Trump had signalled the stand by his administration at the Munich G20 meeting
in July amid opposition from climate change activists who argued that emissions
from fossil fuels were damaging the environment.

The US policy under
Barack Obama, was to reduce dependency on coal for energy which he declared at
the launched of his Power Initiative for Africa in 2013. He had said, his
administration would not back the use of coal abroad for electricity generation
unless there were carbon emission controls.

This did not go down
well with African countries with abundant coal reserves, more so on a continent
where over 600 million people do not have access to electricity.

They argue that they
should be allowed to use coal to speed up their development just as Europe and
North America had done to industrialise.

Naeema Ahmed, Founder
and Director of the Africa Alternative Energy Initiative (AAEI) in London,
welcomed the US Treasury’s stand and told the Ghana News Agency (GNA): “As a
matter of urgency, countries need to look at alternative ways of accessing and
using cleaner fossil fuels as well as renewable energy for economic

“This will help
resolve issues of climate change and industrialised carbon emissions.

“As an organisation,
the AAEI has been advocating and promoting cleaner and affordable energy
through distributed generation,” she added.

The message would also
be welcomed by the African Development Bank (AfDB), which in 2016, approved
$1.7 billion for power projects ranging from policy-based operations to power
generation, public sector transmission and distribution.

Just before the US announcement,
the President of the AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, called on the West to recognise
the need for Africa take a pragmatic approach to energy access.

Addressing the launch
of the Japan-Africa Energy Initiative in Addis Ababa, he said: “Africa must develop
its energy sector with what it has.” 

“Endowed with many
different energy sources – both renewable and conventional – Africa needs a
balanced energy mix.

“This must include
renewable and conventional sources of power for lighting and heating homes, for
cooking, for schools, hospitals, offices, manufacturing plants and

He added: “Africa
loses about four per cent of its annual gross domestic product from energy
bottlenecks and inefficiencies, while 645 million people have no access to electricity;
137 years after the invention of the light bulb.” 

Africa has the lowest
electrification rate in the world, with the lowest power consumption per capita
estimated at 613 kWh per annum, compared to 6,500 kWh in Europe and 13,000 kWh
in the US.

African countries
therefore call for the chance to make use of its 50 billion tons of coal
reserves to provide access to electricity for more people while making use of
clean technology.

Mr Adesina said many
African leaders had shown “keen interest in accessing Japan’s world-renowned
energy technologies, including its ultra-supercritical clean coal

“Japan has answered
our call to make it easier for African governments to adopt a balanced energy
mix of all available energy sources and technologies, including the best
low-emitting clean coal technologies, where they form part of a least-cost
sector development plan,” he added.

Last October, Nigerian
Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, told a joint IMF and World Bank meeting: “We in
Nigeria have coal but we have power problems, yet we’ve been blocked because it
is not green.

“There is some
hypocrisy because we have the entire Western industrialisation built on coal

“That is the
competitive advantage that they have been using and now that Africa wants to
use coal they deny us.”

In May 2016, Nigerian
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said: “We think that we must use our fossil fuel
to the maximum; we must use our coal to the maximum; and we simply call on the
support of the developed nations that are aggressive about reducing emissions,
especially in coal power plants, to give us the technology required because,
obviously, there is available technology to make coal clean which we call for.”

According to the
International Energy Agency’s New Policies Scenario, demand for coal in Nigeria
will increase from 1Mtoe in 2020 to 12Mtoe in 2040

In Tanzania, where the
Mbeya Coal to Power Project will increase the country’s electricity generation
capacity by about 25 per cent, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Sospeter
Muhongo, said: “We will start intensifying the utilisation of coal….

“Why shouldn’t we use
coal when there are other countries where their CO2 per capita is so high?”

The Paris Agreement on
climate change, which became effective, last year, calls for countries to act
to achieve low emissions targets.

Ghana, South Africa
and Nigeria have included low emission coal technology in their Intended
Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are the foundation of the

In Ghana, as part of
its energy mix programme, a Chinese company, in collaboration with the Volta
River Authority, is developing 2×350MW supercritical coal-fired generating
units, including an affiliated coal handling terminal at Ekumfi.

The project would be
expanded either by a 4×350MW or 2×600MW supercritical coal-fired generating
units and contribute to addressing the domestic power generation shortfall and
improve Ghana’s future power balance, according to the VRA.

Ghana’s move is in
line with a recent report by the Africa Progress Panel (APP) on using fossil
fuels – especially Africa’s massive coal reserves – to provide

electricity on the
continent, while making use of new technology to reduce emissions.

Former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan, Chairman of the APP, launching the report said he backed
the use of fossil fuels to bridge Africa’s huge energy gap.

“What we are
advocating is that African governments harness every available energy option,
in as cost-effective and technologically efficient manner as possible, so that
no one is left behind,” Mr Annan said.

“Each country needs to
decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that
works best for its own needs.

“Governments and their
partners need to seize the opportunity to re-imagine their energy futures.

“Africa’s energy
deficit continues to stifle economic growth, job creation, agricultural
transformation, and improvements in health and education,” Mr Annan added.

With a new technology
such as carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS), the World Coal Association
(WCA) in London says the integrated suite of technologies could capture up to
90 per cent of the CO2 emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in
electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the CO2 from
entering the atmosphere.

Benjamin Sporton, CEO
at the WCA, told the GNA he was optimistic that the MDBs would change their
policy on the use of coal for energy, although it might take between eighteen
months and two years.

He said it would make
sense for the MDBs to support African countries that wanted to build coal-fired
power stations to bring them up to standard.

“Our belief is that
MDBs should be helping African countries to use coal as part of an energy mix,”
he added.

The energy mix is
critical in helping Africa to increase access to electricity on the continent,
Mr Sporton told the GNA, adding that renewable energy was not as reliable as
was being touted.

He agreed that solar
power could be used to provide domestic electricity, but for businesses and
major industries, solar was of no use as it was expensive and unreliable 

“For economies to grow
you need affordable power for industrial development so that jobs can be

South Africa’s coal
industry has been providing low-cost coal-fired electricity for energy
intensive mining and heavy industry, and the government plans reducing
greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by 2025 while the Energy Department
aims to achieve 30 per cent of clean energy at the same time.


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