Sponsored by energy services company Schlumberger, a panel discussion entitled The Just Energy Transition: Africa’s economic ambitions and its role in a global energy dialogue, held on October 20 during the African Energy Week (AEW) conference in Cape Town, explored how Africa can achieve a fair energy transition where the continent’s entire energy resources are exploited for energy security and economic growth while prioritizing environmental sustainability.
Moderated by Isabel Miranda, Director for Sustainability and Social Performance at Ipieca, the panel included H.E. Puot Kang Chol, Minister of Petroleum of South Sudan; H.E. Vincent de Paul Massassa, Minister of Oil and Gas of Gabon; Dr. Nosa Omorodion, Director, National Directorates and Independents, West Africa at Schlumberger; Max Jarrett, Senior Board Advisor at AWR Lloyd; David Kawesha, head of Just Transition Sasol; Egbert Faibille Jr, CEO of Petroleum Commission of Ghana; Dr Gasem Fallatah, Oil Sustainability Program Deputy Director and Minister of Energy of Saudi Arabia, as speakers.
Commenting on the role the continent’s hydrocarbon resources play in ensuring the transition is just, H.E Chol said, “We want to make sure that our people benefit from what they have, and what they have now is oil and we must go into that direction. We have recently launched a licensing round and our objective is to diversify the oil sector. We currently have blocks running that are operated by CNPC, Petronas, Sinopec, the national oil company, and a firm from Egypt, and now we want to reach those who are very far to bring them to participate in South Sudan. Our objective is simple: with South Sudan’s 90% of the budget coming from oil, we want to exploit oil to build hospitals and ensure energy and food security, while building infrastructure that will enable decarbonization. From all of us African ministers, nobody is saying we don’t want the transition; we want it to be just.”
Faibille added that, “Every country is guaranteed permanent sovereignty over their resources. Why have other countries now taken the role of telling other countries not to exploit the resources they have to drive socioeconomic developments. Africa should now start looking at developing and maximizing its own market for oil and gas products.”
In support of Faibille’s statement, Fallatah said, “The transition needs to be inclusive. It has to be with and not against ideologies and targets of different regions and governments. In our country, we are doing it the Saudi way in collaboration with international parties. We take into consideration the priorities that we have set for ourselves, and nations need to choose for themselves the path that is right for them, while prioritizing the impact they have on the global energy ecosystem. We have been blessed with all kinds of resources, from oil, gas, and renewables to green hydrogen, which will use to maximize energy security and enhance access to clean cooking through liquefied petroleum gas.”
Commenting on the role of industry in supporting a just energy transition, Omorodion said the two parties need to work with each other. He said, “With the energy transition taking center stage, I see an evolution from exploration and production to environment and politics. There is a stress on the energy mix that we have at the moment, energy access continues to become a problem. Instead of saying the energy transition, we should be talking about how to maximize the current energy mix. We need to optimize the exploitation of current resources whilst looking at how new technologies can be integrated to support the current energy mix. It is super important that Africa protects what it has, optimize, and exploit for security. Africa needs to have a realistic approach to ensure energy access for all. Global countries need to find the right balance between energy poverty, energy security, and economic growth. There is not one solution that fits all. The conversation needs to be just and make carbon sense. Above all getting the right energy mix is crucial.”
Commenting on how Sasol is supporting South Africa’s just transition journey, Kawesha stated that, “Sasol has not set one particular path to achieving net-zero targets. We have set a target to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050, in line with the government’s goal to reduce emissions by 400 million tons by 2030. We will be introducing 600 MW of renewable power into the energy mix and we are ensuring that the path reduces the socioeconomic impact in terms of job security. A Just transition office will be launching in 2023 to develop a roadmap through 2050 to ensure our coal workers are equipped with new skills and that the roadmap is not destructive to the economy. We see opportunities in hard-to-abate industries, such as aviation, to ensure sustainable aviation and manufacturing, hence diversifying into the green hydrogen industry.”