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Can Africa Afford to ‘Strand’ its Fossil Fuels?

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In recent years, “stranded assets” have attracted a lot of interest, as climate-driven changes to our physical environment amplify the calls for a seamless transition to low-carbon pathways.

More than 185 countries have agreed to leave two-thirds of proven fossil fuels in the ground, in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate target of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

“Stranded assets” are natural resources, like minerals, that have suffered from unanticipated or premature write-downs, devaluation or conversion to liabilities even before their exploration, causing potential market failure.

In 2017, the International Energy Agency warned that oil and gas assets worth $1.3 trillion could be left stranded by 2050, if the fossil fuel industry does not adapt to greener climate policies. The risk of stranded assets presents a major policy issue for the African continent due to the dependence on natural resources.

Ninety percent of African countries depend on primary commodities, either for state revenues or exports, and two-thirds are dependent on minerals. The continent needs a long-term strategy on the future of exposed fossil fuels and minerals, yet the discussion has been relatively absent to date.

The risk of stranded assets

Most African countries are still increasing their oil production. New discoveries of oil and gas signal possible fortunes. Earlier this year, French oil firm Total made public its discovery of a large “gas condensate” in South Africa. The gas condensate – effectively a liquid form of natural gas – is a more prized fossil fuel than crude oil. In Kenya, British oil company Tullow Oil projected 2024 as the earliest likely date by which Kenya can expect to start reaping gains from its Turkana oil.

More so, Africa’s grasp on coal is, in part, the result of its acute power shortage. Strong economic growth since 2000 has sparked a notable increase in demand for energy from the private sector to drive the expansion of job-creating industries. For the continent, a latecomer to the fossil fuel boom, arguments for “asset stranding” have the potential to influence development gains and even interrupt economic transition.

There are certain nuances to consider – some assets will be stranded due to changes in markets and investment flows, as global extractive companies and investors adjust their portfolios to meet new, low-carbon regulations. Other extractive assets are at risk due to changing consumer demand, such as the growing use of solar energy and electric vehicles in developed countries.

Climate change is equally affecting Africa’s renewable resources – forests, land, fisheries and water resources – although this deviates from the classic case of asset stranding, which is a potent threat for the non-renewable sector.

The renewable resource sector is witnessing a rapid depletion or degradation of various ecosystems – from land, water, forests, fisheries and oceans – due to the twin pressures of urbanisation and industrialisation, underwritten by high population growth. This presents a dangerous situation.

It is crucial for the African Development Bank to raise awareness of the potential impact of asset stranding for resource-dependent countries, as well as mitigating actions that could create new jobs and resilient economies in the low-carbon transition.

Renewable energy offers opportunity

A renewable energy revolution could unlock Africa’s social and economic development. However, a change in the political economy is needed to move away from the current preoccupation with big power projects, centralised electricity production and a heavy reliance on coal. More attention, for example, can be given to localised and resource-efficient energy options like decentralised, community-owned local solar, wind and biomass projects.

It is on this premise that the African Development Bank’s African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC) developed a flagship project to analyse the risks and opportunities facing the natural resource sector in Africa under various low-carbon development pathways. The centre has conducted studies on low-carbon regulatory options for the petroleum sector in Nigeria, and the mining sector in South Africa. Research shows that mining companies in South Africa are increasingly adopting energy-efficient techniques to reduce their carbon footprint, as part of the country’s national climate strategy. Similarly, Nigeria has also introduced innovative climate-friendly initiatives such as the National Gas Flare Commercialisation Initiative, which aims to capitalise flared gas through a trading scheme, while increasing power generation.

The Bank is also supporting policy reforms to minimise the risks and impact of asset stranding in general, and the low-carbon transition by:

  • Ensuring complementary policies and institutional coordination among African countries in order to meet Paris climate commitments (e.g. by financing the implementation of nationally determined contributions through the Africa NDC Hub), and national extractive sector policy and regulation, as part of a broader green growth strategy.
  • Leveraging existing funding to countries to attract sustainable and green financing opportunities (such as carbon emissions trading and green bonds) for climate adaptation in countries with high carbon risk.
  • Introducing green components into existing Bank funding vehicles (such as natural capital and biodiversity conservation) to reduce the risks and transaction costs of accessing climate financing by regional member countries and private actors in the extractive sector.
  • Climate-screening countries’ extractive sector development strategies to ensure that carbon risks are fully addressed and mitigated, as part of broader technical advisory support provided by the Bank on resilience and green growth.

The bottom line is that there will be winners and losers from asset stranding, according to the nature of the resource (fossil fuels vs “green” minerals), the level of mineral or extractive dependence, and institutional preparedness (markets, policies and skills/labour force). Policy actions by African governments in the next decade will be critical to mitigating this risk. Therefore, there is a need for regional cooperation through existing mechanisms on mineral-based development, trade and economic integration, such as the Africa Mining Vision (AMV) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

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ADB, Gulf PD Sign Deal to Build 2,500 MW Power Plant in Thailand

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Gulf PD Company Limited (Gulf PD) today signed a $180 million agreement to build and operate a 2,500-megawatt (MW) combined cycle gas turbine power plant in the Rojana Rayong 2 Industrial Park of Thailand’s Rayong Province, about 150 kilometers southeast of Bangkok.

Gulf PD is owned by Independent Power Development, a joint venture between Gulf Energy Development Public Company Limited (GED) and Mitsui & Co., Ltd. (Mitsui).

ADB’s support is composed of a regular loan of $50 million and a B loan of up to $85 million. ADB will also mobilize $45 million through the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), established in 2016 and supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. ADB signed the loan agreement with its cofinanciers—the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and 12 other international and local commercial banks—playing an anchor lender role in the project by catalyzing up to $764 million in commercial cofinancing. The B loan will be funded by Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation and Germany’s DZ Bank.

The agreement for the Eastern Economic Corridor Independent Power Project was signed by ADB Deputy Director General for Private Sector Operations Mr. Christopher Thieme and the CEO of GED Mr. Sarath Ratanavadi at a ceremony in Bangkok.

“The project will build the fourth-largest power plant and one of the largest combined cycle gas turbine power plants in Thailand, which will be key in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) development plan, considered as the prime economic growth driver for the country until 2028,” said Mr. Thieme. “ADB is proud to play an essential role in this transaction, which will help provide reliable power to industry and households and boost Thailand’s economic growth and development prospects. We are particularly pleased to bring in additional cofinanciers to this transaction through our B loan program and LEAP, since the financing gap will be one of the major challenges for the success of the EEC development plan.”

The plant will be fully operational by 2024, delivering at least 16,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity to users. With the state-of-the-art combined-cycle gas turbine technology to be used at the plant, the project will mean 1 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide is emitted every year compared with current electricity grid emissions. The plant will be integral to sustaining Thailand’s energy security given that more than 8,500 MW of generating capacity—equivalent to about 20% of current national energy capacity—of aging power plants will be retired between 2020 and 2025.

Gulf PD was established in 2012 to develop, construct, own, and operate the 2,500 MW power plant. GED is a leading power generation company with the largest portfolio of contracted power purchase agreements in Thailand. Mitsui, established in 1947, is one of Japan’s largest trading companies involved in the development of more than 74 power projects globally.

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Latin America and Caribbean on the Brink of Massive Solar Power Growth

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Latin America and the Caribbean could grow their installed solar capacity by a factor of 40 by 2050, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows. Annual investmens exceeding seven billion would see the region’s solar PV capacity rise from 7 gigawatts (GW) today, to more than 280 GW by mid-century. While solar energy remains the highest in Asia, North America and Europe, market growth is set to shift to other regions in the world.

By that time, solar PV would represent the second-largest power source behind wind, generating a quarter of the world’s power, “Future of Solar Photovoltaic” launched today at “Sun World 2019” in Lima finds. In total, global solar power capacity would rise from 480 GW in 2018 to over 8000 GW by 2050, growing by nearly 9 per cent every year.

“Solar PV and other renewables sources represent the most effective and ready solution for addressing growing energy demand and limiting carbon emission at the same time,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Renewables are practical, affordable and climate-safe. They are key to sustainable development, enabling energy access, spurring economic growth, creating employment and improving health. Particularly solar energy is set to become one of the most prominent power sources in 2050. Projected growth rates in markets like Latin America showcase that we can extend the energy transition to all countries. It’s possible.”

If accompanied by sound policies, the transformation driven by renewables such as solar can bring substantial socioeconomic benefits, IRENA’s new report finds. The global solar industry has the potential to employ over 18 million people by 2050, four times more than the 4.4 million jobs today.

Over the last decade, installed capacity of off-grid solar PV has grown more than tenfold, from roughly 0.25 GW in 2008 to almost 3 GW in 2018 around the world. With its modular and flexible nature, solar PV technology can be adapted to a wide range of off-grid applications and to local conditions. Indeed, off-grid solar PV is a key technology for achieving universal electricity access, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Similarly, the deployment of rooftop solar PV systems has increased extensively, which today makes solar PV in some markets more attractive than buying electricity from the grid. The competitiveness of distributed solar power is clearly raising deployment in large markets, including Brazil, China, Germany and Mexico.

Statistical highlights:

Accelerating solar PV can cut energy-related CO2 emissions by 21 per cent in 2050.

With over 50 per cent of installed capacity in 2050, Asia (mostly China) would continue to dominate solar PV power, followed by North America (20%) and Europe (10%). The Latin American market would grow from 7 GW in 2018 to over 280 GW.

Annual solar PV investment would have to increase by 68 per cent on average globally, from USD 114 billion in 2018 to USD 192 billion in 2050.

Global levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar PV will continue to fall from an average of USD 85 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2018 to between USD 5-14 cents per kWh by 2050. A recent solar and wind power auction in Colombia was awarded for an average electricity price of USD 27 cents per kWh.

Due to innovations, solar PV remains a fast-evolving industry. Floating PV is one of the most prominent examples with global cumulative installed capacity exceeding 1 GW in 2018. Battery storage and electric vehicles are key solutions to support the grid and manage high shares of solar PV as well as to guarantee the flexibility of the power system.

The full report “Future of Solar Photovoltaic. Deployment, investment, technology, grid integration and socio-economic aspects” can be found here

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IRENA Facilitates Investment and Renewable Projects on Ground in Africa

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Boosting renewable energy projects on the ground requires scaling up investment. IRENA’s state-of-the-art analysis of enabling policy frameworks and finance mechanisms channel public and private investment in markets like Africa, Latin America, Asia, South-East Europe and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Now, IRENA is taking its work one step further by increasing the Agency’s on-ground impact with 15 regional and sub-regional platforms which aims at scaling up renewables deployment and investments.

One step in this new direction is the event that took place in Johannesburg as part of the Africa Investment Forum hosted by the African Development Bank. It facilitated renewable energy deal-making in Sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with Power Africa and the African Trade Insurance Agency. The event corresponds to IRENA’s new direction and way forward ensuring an acceleration of the renewable energy transformation globally.

Speaking at the Investment Forum in South Africa, IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera underlined the importance of renewable energy to meet sustainable economic growth and Africa’s climate and development ambitions. “Now more than ever, renewables have become a compelling investment proposition”, said La Camera. “With renewable energy technology prices set to decline, the cost-competitiveness of renewables will strengthen further. IRENA’s analysis shows that nearly a quarter of Africa’s energy needs could be met from indigenous and clean renewable energy sources by 2030. This would result in a wide array of socio-economic benefits in terms of economic growth, welfare, employment and energy access. It’s Possible”.

IRENA has been committed to supporting African governments in their quest for a sustainable energy future. The Agency has supported countries in building attractive investment frameworks for renewables to strengthen institutional and technical capacity. It has also supported the development and financing of renewable energy projects through project facilitation tools. 
“A lot remains to be done to address the key risks and barriers that hinder the scale-up of renewable investment in the region”, La Camera continued. “There is no shortage of renewable energy project proposals which are competing for investor capital. But they are not always financially viable. Many proposals fail to materialize due to high cost of capital, limited access to risk mitigation solutions and long delays in projects”.

By building on its extensive project pipeline in Sub-Saharan Africa with over 90 renewable energy projects, the Agency has showcased 10 renewable energy projects at the Investment Forum. Projects from Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo which have a total capacity ranging from 6 MW to 70 MW – covering technologies like wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower – were presented.

IRENA’s project facilitation platform provides project owners and developers with increased visibility for their projects among financiers and other market players. Project owners have access to wide range of financial instruments provided by multiple investors from development finance institutions, private companies, utilities, private equity funds, donor and multi-donor facilities, commercial banks and more, as well as access to different services for example legal and financial advisory, environmental, project development and Engineering Procurement and Construction contracting.

More information about IRENA’s project facilitation.

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