Fossil fuel consumption is inevitable in both obvious and subtle ways. The widespread use of these resources have immensely improved living conditions across the globe. From the use of electricity, the vehicles we operate and most of the goods consumed, fossil fuels are arguably the spine of modern society because the productive and meaningful lives we are accustomed to would simply be impossible without fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels provide substantial economic benefits. These same fuels also represent the economic mainstay of resource-rich countries and the world’s largest firms. It is arguable that any steps humanity takes to reduce climate-warming emissions will damage commercial opportunities. Relief for the climate means danger for the fossil fuel business.
In past and recent decades, a series of concerns have been raised about their environmental cost. International Energy Agency (IEA) director Fatih Birol asserted that two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves should not be depleted to ensure the prevention of average global temperatures rising by more than 2°C.
Most developed countries, like the United States, have enacted Acts that address the dangers of fossil fuels combustion of. Notably, the United States Clean Air Act of 1970 and 1977 addresses the potential effects of airborne conventional pollutants and further imposes regulations and standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Governments around the world have imposed myriad restrictions on the consumption of fossil fuel. For example, British Columbia’s relatively longstanding carbon tax is credited with a 13% reduction in per capita emissions between 2008 and 2013. United States former President Barack Obama pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 level by 2025. Yet, in many of the world’s largest and developing economies, fossil fuel consumption is still exacting heavy toll on human health.
In Ghana, there are few policy responses aimed at limiting the consumption of fossil fuel. Ghana is gradually expanding its fossil fuel consumption through the extraction of oil etc. The question here is: are we consuming fossil fuels because of their economic benefits? Are we employing strategic measures to minimise fossil fuel consumption? Are we ignorant about the economic benefit of going 100% renewable? With the numerous potential benefit of going 100% renewable, this article presents four (4) main potential benefits of renewable energy consumption.
- Consistent and sustained energy supply
The problem of energy shortage has affected the country for decades. Shocks in energy supply from existing traditional sources such as oil and hydroelectricity have pushed the designated authorities to adopt power-rationing strategies. The unsustainability and inconsistency in energy supply has led to the “dumso” syndrome. In order to increase productivity, supply from sustainable sources is key.
By virtue of its location, Ghana is endowed with abundant sunlight, the primary input for solar energy. It is estimated that one hour of radiation from the sun provides more energy than the entire human populace uses in a year. With high solar irradiation in Ghana (e.g. average ground radiation of ~4.6kWh/m2/day in Kumasi, ~5.5kWh/m2/day in Navrongo, ~5.4kWh/m2/day in Yendi, ~5.1kWh/m2/day in Ho, ~5.5kWh/m2/day in Wa, ~5.1kWh/m2/day, etc.) and with more cities on and near the prime meridian and between the equator and Tropic of Cancer, solar power alone can clear all Ghanaian energy consumption hurdles.
Renewable resources such as sunlight are in abundant supply and probably will never deplete or run out. Thus, renewable energy can serve Ghana as its sustainable and consistent source of energy and save it from the problem of shortages which routinely affect the nation.
- Clean and healthy environment
The use of fossils fuels for energy emits greenhouse gases through combustion, and causes a number of health problems for humans, food, and the general environment. Studies by various scholars, based on their results, all conclude that renewable sources of energy are environmentally friendly. Relative to fossil fuels, renewable sources of energy have low or zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Key inputs for renewable sources of energy including biomass, sunlight, water and wind generate zero harmful pollutants in the environment. The waste and harmful by-products from using existing fossil fuel-sources would be completely eradicated if Ghana gradually switched to renewables.
Reports from extant literature show that a solar-hydrogen system produces zero (0) carbon dioxide (CO2), 0 carbon monoxide (CO), 0 sulphur dioxide (SO2), 0.10 oxides of nitrogen (NOx), 0 hydrocarbons (HC) and 0 particulate matter (PM). Thus, environmental-related issues such as premature death of humans, loss of livestock and wildlife, reduction in crop yield due to acid-rain, loss of fish population, air pollution and sea level rise would be minimised massively should the country switch to hundred percent renewables.
- Renewable energy consumption as a key driver of GDP growth
Numerous factors such as fossil fuel production and trade, deployment of renewable energy etc. influences GDP growth. A large share of GDP growth is driven by the increased investments needed to deploy the high capital needs of renewables. Compared with most investment options, the capital-intensive nature of deploying renewable energy technologies triggers GDP growth.
More specifically, the total cost of a renewable energy plant is an upfront investment on physical assets as against fossil fuel expenditure throughout the lifecycle of the plant. Surges in energy demand correspond to proportionate investments in energy infrastructure. To ensure free-flow of sustainable energy systems and to realise potential benefits on investments, energy sector investments need to be directed toward renewable energy systems. Investment in renewable energy across all sectors needs to be scaled up substantially.
- Going 100% Renewables creates more Jobs
Globally, the energy sector has played the dual role of fueling economy-wide development and supporting a large number of jobs. Growth of the renewable energy sector over the past decade and its impact on job-creation have been a silver-lining for employment in the energy sector. Employment trends vary widely across renewable energy technologies.
For example, Solar PV is solidifying as the largest employer in renewable energy, due to the ever-increasing global production as lower cost connotes accelerated growth installation. Furthermore, distribution of solar PV offers numerous feasible and affordable ways in improving access to energy. Here again, solar panels distribution, assembly and provision of after-sales service contribute to creating jobs in an economy.
As jobs in renewable energy expand, the ability to gather sound information on status and trends of employment will enable informed policy choices and measures. More specifically, data insights and analyses are crucial to monitoring policy effectiveness. Recognising the pressing need for going 100% renewable, it is appropriate to explore various aspects of renewable energy jobs within the context of a wider green energy sector.
Though Ghana is not a major greenhouse gas emitter – in order to fulfil energy demand by the populace – gradually substituting fossils for renewables would be beneficial. The energy-related greenhouse gases would be eliminated, the galloping prices would be halted, energy supply would be consistent, and the environment would be clean and healthy for human, animal and plant survival.
BISMARK AMEYAW is a researcher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and referee to a number of prestigious peer-review journals. He specialises in modelling and forecasting the dynamic links in energy policies and the economy. He writes, teaches and consults on management and econometric issues. He also serves as an editorial board member and reviewer for a number of prestigious international journals. You may contact him through: E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] and [email protected]
AMOS OPPONG is a researcher at University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and a referee to a number of prestigious peer-review journals. He specializes in modelling and forecasting the dynamic links in environmental, energy and the economy and policy analysis. He has rich research experience in diverse fields assisting research projects on mining, agriculture, sectoral energy demand, economy-wide energy demand and supply, trade, environmental cooperation, air pollution and climate change. You may contact him through: Email: [email protected]: [email protected]