Post COVID-19: Renewable energy guarantees sustainable future – IES

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Renewable energy offers a clean and sustainable future for Ghana and Africa in a post COVID-19 world, Raymond Nuworkpor, Research and Policy Analyst at the Institute for Energy Security (IES), has said.

“It is the resilience of renewables to the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the falling cost of power generation from renewable energy resources, that has led many to forecast a significant increase in green investment post-COVID-19 – and Africa cannot miss out on this opportunity.

“There is a strong consensus that renewable energy is the future emerging segment for the energy industry, an opportunity also for green investors to acquire shares at cheaper prices,” Mr. Nuworkpor told the B&FT in an exclusive interview.

Joining a chorus of calls for governments around the globe to speed up the adoption of renewable energy options that protect the environment and restrain negative impacts of the climate crisis on cities, countries and their citizens, Mr. Nuworkpor stressed that investments in renewables today will become the strong foundations of a prosperous future.

“With the lowering cost of renewable energy sources, renewables have demonstrated their robustness, stability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness over this malignant COVID-19 period – unlike the crude oil market. The shift from a hydrocarbon-based energy production to renewable energy sources is pushing a lot of investors, fund managers, and oil majors into diversifying capital into renewable energy sources,” he said.

To him, the sustainable recovery strategy by countries around the world, especially Africa, must be to protect existing renewables project while erecting the needed enablers to upscale infrastructure related to energy transition.

“Securing strategic funding for local industries and institutions for a smooth transition from hydrocarbon-based sources to renewables for inclusive growth and development is something that cannot be overlooked,” he said – adding that the energy transition conversation must be a global dialogue with Africa as an active participant because of the enormous job opportunities associated with renewable energy production; i.e. drastic reduction in electricity tariffs, decarbonisation and minimisation of climate change-related disasters.

“The renewable energy conversation does not mean pulling the plug on fossil fuels overnight, but rather providing the needed catalyst to ensure an adequate energy mix – especially in Africa with it attendant electricity challenges,” he noted.

Already, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has pointed out that jobs in renewables will reach 42 million globally by 2050; an additional 21 million jobs through energy efficiency measures and 15 million jobs through system flexibility are coming on-stream.

Also, green energy sources are rapidly becoming cheaper than fossil fuel-powered plants.  56 percent of capacity additions for utility-scale renewable power in 2019 achieved lower electricity costs than the cheapest coal plants.

There would also be US$23billion of annual potential savings if the costliest 500 GW of existing coal were replaced by solar and wind. Also, 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide reduction annually is possible – equalling up to 5 percent of the total global carbon dioxide emissions last year. And lastly, a cumulative global GDP would grow by US$98trillion, according to IRENA.

Power generation cost by wind energy, for instance, continued to rapidly plummet over the last decade per data gathered by IRENA. Onshore and offshore wind cost declined by 39 percent and 29 percent respectively. The declining cost of wind energy makes it a cost-effective and prudent investment: with the same amount of money, investment value increases – i.e. US$1million invested in 2010 yielded 514 kilowatts (Kw); the value however increased to 679 kW in 2019 for onshore wind.

It is reported by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghanathat Ghana’s power crisis of 2012-2015 had a huge negative effect on manufacturing firms, which included the folding-up of businesses and job-losses.

“It is for such reasons that a push for the utilisation of renewable sources of energy is in the right direction. Not only does this take pressure off the national grid with its unreliable power supply, but also provides cheaper sources of energy at more stable generation and use levels which enable businesses to adequately plan and grow.

“Africa, and for that matter Ghana, stands to potentially benefit immensely with its small and medium-scale enterprises, households et cetera as they explore and utilise available sources of renewable energy to cut down on their energy expenditure,” Mr. Nuworkpor said.

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