By Raymond NUWORKPOR
During the first quarter of 2020, the world recorded slumps in prices of crude oil, exposing its vulnerability and volatility. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), crude oil prices plunged by 54.18 percent on average terms, starting the year on a high of US$66.74 to close the first quarter of 2020 at US$30.58 per barrel. The price plummet was so precipitous that at a point, a barrel of crude cost less than a meal at any fast food restaurant. The suspension of exploratory works, slashing of projected crude oil receipts, job looses, diversification of investment from fossil fuel, withholding of shareholders’ returns, filing of bankruptcy et cetera were the dominant features of the crude market in the first and second quarter of year 2020.
COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. The pandemic has changed the way we eat, the way we work, the way we communicate, and all that. In International Energy Agency’s report, “World Energy Investment” published in May 2020, the agency describes drastically changes energy markets in the wake of the pandemic. The report reveals the largest fall in energy sector investment ever and uncovers historic shift along the way. It shows that for the first time ever, there will be more spending on electricity than on oil. Most importantly, the report asserts that it is in the power sector where the possibilities of transition to a low-carbon energy sector are most apparent.
Although a separate report from the IEA noted that, newly installed renewable power capacity was expected to decline by 13 percent this year, the renewable (green) energy sector was proven to be disproportionately resilient to the impacts of the pandemic.
Damilola Ogunbiyi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Special Representative of the United Nation (UN) Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) and Co-Chair of UN-Energy, has noted that, “as countries rebuild economies from the impacts of the pandemic, they are faced with a unique once-in-a-generation opportunity to recover better with sustainable energy.” It will therefore not be shocking that the post-COVID-19 era will be jam-packed with sustainable energy related programmes, and laggard governments that are slow to adopt and advance their renewable energy resources, risk being left behind – or worse, will completely be shut out. They will suffer consequences such as slow social and economic development, augmented environmental problems resulting from continued reliance on fossil fuel energy resources.
The Renewable Agenda
Energy related matters, particularly the production of electricity from renewable sources, are critical on the agendas of most governments around the world today. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 7- Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030) and the Paris Agreement, emphasize the importance of energy sustainability, healthy ecosystem and decarbonization.
The UN Secretary-General’s SE4ALL initiative, clearly shows how clean, affordable and safe energy can enable countries recuperate better and leverage renewable energy to not only close the energy gap but also reset their economies. The SE4ALL guide shows that African countries, through a widespread, ambitious and genuine commitment to advancing comprehensive renewable energy can achieve resilient economies with long-term growth, new jobs, cleaner and healthier environments, increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP), improved agriculture yields, and affordable and sustainable energy for all in the long term.
It is an important fact that developing renewable energy is a must-have, a make-or-break commodity. Hence, most governments have already planned and are deploying strategies to achieve sustainable energy supply. Many countries around the world have instituted objectives to adopt and utilize renewable energy resources to shore up their power generation and consumption. By the adoption of policies and pursuance of targets, countries like China, United States (USA), Germany, United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have become world leaders in renewable energy, and are investing heavily into renewable energy technologies (RETs).
Germany for instant, continue to play a key role in the energy transition conversation, investing heavily in technology, education and research. Germany has set for itself a 65 percent target by 2030, requiring an increase in wind and solar generation capacity to between 215 and 237 gigawatts (GW) from 120 GW presently. Wind, solar and other clean energy sources currently account for more about 40 percent of the country’s energy production, having more than doubled over the past 8 years, according to Reuters. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) figures for 2018 show around 284,000 people working in Germany’s renewable energy sector, the vast majority in wind energy
The African Story
The story in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa looks different, yet promising. A crucial source of concern is the worrying trend of lack of access to affordable electricity and the unsteady nature of electricity supply; factors which have been impediments to continental development and energy security.
Isn’t it mind boggling that till date Africa, a continent with the richest solar resources in the world, has installed only 5 gigawatts (GW) of solar photovoltaic (PV), which is less than 1 percent of the global total, as noted by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Meanwhile, the agency projects that Sub-Saharan African countries are to witness the fastest growth from 2020 to 2040, with demand for electricity doubling to over 1,600 terawatts-hour (TWh).
Morocco remain the leading country playing an important role in Africa’s energy transition with the Noor Ouarzazate solar complex, according to a June report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group. The country is making strides to address Africa’s energy infrastructure deficit challenge. The June 2020 Climate Action Tracker statistics, founds Morocco and the Gambia as