ENABLING A MORE AMBITIOUS GREEN ENERGY FUTURE IN GHANA
In spite of Ghana’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, government has just signed a new agreement with China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd. (CHEC) to build sub-Saharan Africa’s first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) regasification terminal in Ghana. While the fossil fuel industry continues to promote natural gas as a less carbon-intensive alternative to coal, the use of LNG as an energy source is highly inconsistent with the Paris Agreement commitments because of Methane. Research shows that in the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The FIDEP Foundation believes that choosing the 1.50C pathway requires radical shifts in order to reduce net global emissions of long-lived greenhouse gases to zero. We believe it is possible to build a climate-safe, socially-owned, clean and sustainable energy system which ensures the basic right to energy for everyone and respects the rights and different ways of life of communities around the world. We believe it is vital to address both methane and CO2 if Ghana wants to effectively avoid a dirty energy path and pursue meaningful and ambitious green energy future.
Dirty Energy Projects in Ghana:
In 2015, a 2,000mw coal plant was proposed to be established at Otuam in the Central Region to complement the country’s hydropower sources. The project was to be executed by the Volta River Authority (VRA) in collaboration with a Chinese power producer, Shenzhen Energy. Realizing that the coal plant would contradict Ghana’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Ghana’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), government finally made the decision to shelve the project.
Despite this positive indication, government has initiated yet another energy project that does not line up with Ghana’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Ghana’s own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by signing the agreement to build sub-Saharan Africa’s first LNG regasification terminal in Ghana. In September 2018, it was revealed that the state-owned CHEC will build the terminal, which will convert LNG into gas that is ready for consumption. Government has indicated that construction of the regasification terminal is expected to take 18 months costing about $350 million. The terminal will be expected to process up to 2 million metric tons of natural gas a year and supply about 30% of Ghana’s total electricity generating capacity.
Risks Associated with LNG
The fossil fuel industry continue to advertise natural gas, including LNG, as a “bridge fuel”. LNG has been touted as a less carbon-intensive alternative to coal, an intermediate stage in the transition to a renewable energy economy. However, evidence indicate that rising methane emissions could derail the paris agreement and methane is the main component of natural gas. While methane doesn't linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. When methane leaks into the atmosphere unburned, it is a greenhouse gas over 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Existing data shows that, along the full LNG life cycle, up to 5 percent of methane escapes unburned.
The second concern is with the transportation and cooling of LNG. The transportation and cooling of exported LNG is known to be hugely energy-intensive. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that, taking into account the incidence of methane leakage and energy intensity LNG liquefaction, shipping and regasification, exported LNG as a power source is worse for the climate than coal.
It is clear that LNG has an enormous climate footprint, due to methane leakage throughout its lifecycle as well as the significant amount of energy required to transport and freeze gas before it can be exported. Apart from that, natural gas can emit as much as 50% carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a typical coal plant when combusted. Therefore, it is safe to agree that the building of new LNG terminals and exploitation of new fossil fuels reserves are both impossible to reconcile with the goal of keeping global warming well below 2°C, and to tend toward 1,5°C.
LNG, the Paris Agreement and Ghana’s NDCs:
Ghana’s major energy pursuits in recent years are diametrically opposed to the energy ladder concept where the energy sources used by households tend to be cleaner, more efficient and more technologically advanced as income increases. Ghana seems to be climbing up a dirty energy ladder while the country seeks to pursue sustainable development.
It is diametrically opposed to our NDCs under the Paris Agreement and equally opposed to the ultimate aim of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. It is important to highlight the fact that neither fossil fuels nor natural gas should have a place in Ghana SE4ALL initiative. In actual fact, LNG undermines the objective of SE4ALL as it cannot be categorized as sustainable form of energy.
Recent studies indicate that an unexpected increase in methane growth is threatening to negate carbon dioxide emissions reduction gains. This makes it clear that drastically reducing methane sources will be necessary to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, researchers say.
From a climate change perspective, LNG is even worse than coal as a source of energy. After ratifying the Paris agreement, governments that fail to give evidence of their commitment against climate change by ruling out extreme dirty energy or governments that are directly involved in the building of new extremely dirty energy infrastructure such as LNG regasification terminals expose themselves to the risk of being at the centre of civil society mobilization.
Let’s Move Towards Cleaner and Sustainable Energy:
FIDEP Foundation believes that Ghana needs to transition towards, clean and sustainable energy sources. Ghana has several renewable energy resources like wind, solar PV, mini and small hydro and modern biomass that can be exploited for electricity production and supply in the country. According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Engineering of the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) Ghana, has approximately 413 km2 area with good-to-excellent wind resource which could support a little over 2,000 MW of wind power development.
Also, considering that many parts of Ghana receive 5 ̶8 hours of sunshine per day at 1 kW/m2, with a potential of over 2,000MW utility scale solar installation, the prospects for solar farms is very high. Solar energy is deemed the single energy resource that is continuously decreasing in price, increasing in utility and could effectively contribute to sustainable development if the right decisions are taken by government. Given these facts, it is hard to understand why government Ghana will continue to seek energy sources that are clearly unsustainable and dirty.
Ghana needs to be driving its energy future with Green Mini-Grids (GMGs). The future of rural electrification depends on mini-grids. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity from green mini-grids will be the best solution for more than half of the rural population currently without access to power. A mini-grid, refer to a set of small-scale electricity generators and possibly energy storage systems connected to a distribution network that supplies electricity to a small, localised group of customers and operates independently from the national transmission grid. They range in a size from a few kilowatts (KW) up to 10 megawatts (MW). GMGs powered by renewables (solar PV, hydro, wind, community led biomass) can guarantee Ghana the following:
· Universal energy access at a level that respects everyone’s right to a dignified life,
· Energy system that is 100% renewable, with climate resilient, locally-appropriate and low-impact energy technology,
· People-centred renewable energy sources with meaningful participation from people and communities,
· An end to false solutions and a rejection of highly risky geo-engineering options.
Given that Ghana has a track record of a fairly clean energy sources (50% hydro), Ghana is currently in a perfect position to leapfrog dirty technologies and pursue clean energy sources. If Ghana makes a firm resolution to make solar, mini hydro and wind power a national priority, the country could attract significant support from the European Union (EU) which currently has a renewable energy target of 40% by 2030.
In conclusion, FIDEP Foundation believes it is important to address both methane and CO2 if Ghana wants to effectively avoid negative impact of climate change. If government supposedly abandoned the coal power project in recognition of Ghana’s commitment to the sustainable development goals, then government should equally consider shelving the Tema LNG regasification terminal as it will equally undermine the Paris agreement. As Ghana seeks sustainable development, it is important that such development is driven by clean, renewable, progressive and sustainable energy sources. To attain such development, government of Ghana needs to desist from dirty energy pursuits and place a premium on an ambitious clean energy future.