Africa holds the answers to Europe’s wartime energy crisis

REPowerEU of the European Commission plan is to cut Russian gas demand by two-thirds by 2022 and make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels by 2030. In 2021, the European Union (EU) imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia, about 40 percent of its total gas consumption. Restrictions on Russian oil and gas will inevitably fuel the search for new supplies in Africa, the world’s most uncharted region. Already in mid-February, on the sidelines of the EU-African Union (AU) summit, Tanzanian President Samia Hassan said tensions in Ukraine were generating growing interest in the country’s gas reserves, the sixth largest in Africa. In addition to its green solar and hydropower potential, Africa could emerge as the world’s next frontier for hydrocarbon exploration as developments in Ukraine and Russia increase demand for non-Russian oil and gas. In 2021 alone, oil and gas were discovered in Angola, Namibia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Restarting and expanding solar projects in North Africa could completely replace Russian gas as a European energy source. In fact, the Russian invasion of Ukraine could trigger an African energy renaissance that could overtake fossil fuel use in Europe and Africa. It could also stimulate and diversify North Africa’s stagnant economies and make large projects like the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Grand Inga hydroelectric scheme commercially viable. The DESERTEC Foundation has been promoting the use of large solar parks in the Sahara for decades. In North Africa, his plans were thwarted by the instability of the Arab Spring and Germany’s staggering lack of foresight in betting on Russian gas. Theoretically, the Sahara could supply four times the world’s current energy demand. Even a fraction of that could replace power from Russian gas imports. Solar power may also grow rapidly, perhaps outpacing plans to build more liquefied natural gas terminals. Solar power is also much more environmentally sustainable than increasing fracking in the United States or getting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Venezuela to increase oil and gas production. Accommodating solar electricity feed from North Africa would require additional infrastructure. Once the solar systems are up and running, they must be connected, so the Mediterranean Electric Ring draft should be reinforced. More underwater electricity cables it would have to be brought to southern Europe and then to the European power grid. Some projects are already underway. Tunisia and Algeria are planning links under the Strait of Sicily to reach Italy and Spain, and plans are being discussed to connect to Morocco with high-voltage direct current submarine cables with a capacity of 3.6 GW. Greece and Egypt are in the final phase of an agreement for a 2GW submarine interconnector. Because Europe has the world’s largest synchronous power grid, it is relatively easy to increase capacity and find alternative supply routes to transport electricity north. There are blueprints for all of this, but to date Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has preferred to rely on fossil fuels from Russia. However, there are challenges. Covering 20 per cent of the Sahara desert with solar panels, as modeled in a recent study, could raise local temperatures in the desert by 1.5°C. However, the trade-off is a reduction in CO2 emissions that those large solar parks would bring. Some of the associated analyzes and models were recently published for Advances in Earth and Space Sciences. The authors noted that “careful spatial planning and increased solar panel efficiency will be needed to minimize the unintended consequences of huge desert solar farms in North Africa.” The consequences of such a large project require additional research given the collateral effects on global climate. Meanwhile, more modest initiatives could make up for the energy shortfall that would occur after the end of gas imports from Russia. When European demand is low, surplus electricity could provide power for water desalination in North Africa. If you are in the region, the associated manufacturing and maintenance requirements are an opportunity to industrialize the stagnant economies of North Africa. The potential of green hydrogen from large hydroelectric projects in Africa is the second solution awaiting, although more environmentally and ecologically controversial. Africa has the largest untapped hydroelectric potential worldwide, with only 37 GW of installed capacity, about 11 percent of its potential. The continent added less than 1 GW in 2020 compared to 14.5 GW in East Asia and the Pacific. ALSO READ: Energy efficiency progress not enough to meet climate goals – Report The main reason for the low implementation is the need for transmission networks to transport the electricity from the dam to the consumer, such as the proposed Grand Inga scheme (potential 42 GW). The first two dams, Inga ll and Inga ll, are built and Inga lll is imminent. But the larger Grand Inga has been in the planning stage since the 1950s. The megaproject has been perpetually held back by poor planning, inefficiencies, corruption and the need to lay transmission lines over several thousand miles to the markets of South Africa and Nigeria. Grand Inga instantly becomes commercially viable if it uses its vast electricity output to produce hydrogen at source and convert bauxite and iron ore deposits into steel. The finished products, green hydrogen and green steel, could be shipped to Europe and elsewhere by sea. Before Russia invaded Ukraine, annual demand Hydrogen was forecast to rise from 90 million tons to 140 million tons by 2030, with green hydrogen holding a 20 percent share. Europe, especially Germany, is hungry for green hydrogen and opinions about its potential have skyrocketed since the invasion of Ukraine. Africa could meet a large part of that demand, eventually also supplying power to the DRC, which has among the lower electricity access tariffs around the world. A Grand Inga project based on a green steel and hydrogen future could turn a white elephant project into reality, with huge benefits for a region endowed with some of the world’s largest mineral reserves. Many of these minerals are crucial to a global transition to renewable energy, especially battery production. Although reducing dependence on Russian gas will not be easy for the EU, Africa has the potential to reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. It could also help the global economy make a faster transition to renewable energy and use that opportunity to accelerate its own development and transition directly to renewable energy. Who will carry this forward? Jakkie CilliersHead of African Futures and Innovation, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Pretoria This article is published with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Hanns Seidel Foundation. (This item was first published by ISS Today, a syndication partner of Premium Times. We have your permission to republish.) advertisements Read More Related News Here Let here it in the comment below if you do have an opinion on this; Africa holds the answers to Europe’s wartime energy crisis