Ongoing grading works at one of the well pads in the KingFisher oil field in Kikuube District. PHOTO/PAUL MURUNGI

|

How far must the West push for green energy?

What you need to know:

  • According to an opinion published in UK’s Telegraph, Museveni believes that in the short term Uganda, and Africa at large, could play a crucial role in solving the energy crisis. 

President Museveni published an opinion on the world’s energy crisis in UK’s Telegraph on May 2. 

The opinion has renewed the debate on the energy transition question, and whether oil remains a necessary evil for years to come.  Climate activists have triggered this debate over global warming concerns from oil and gas production, arguing that everyone must be looking at supporting the transition to low carbon.  

Museveni, in his opinion, says Uganda’s ambition to become an oil producer has been met with misguided criticism from developed and already industrialised nations in the West.

“For more than a decade, Europe, Britain and US have been trying to transition to renewable energy. Off course, their green ambitions are laudable, but the way they are going about realising them - imposing a moratorium on fossil fuel investment at home and abroad - is misguided,” he wrote. 

The argument that Museveni makes is that Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, which makes it clear that energy needs cannot be met with a sudden shift to the more expensive and less reliable solar and wind energy alone. 

This in fact, he says, may not boost manufacturing or industrialise agriculture, which remains crucial in the wake of Covid-19 and wonders why Africa should be bothered yet the continent produces just a fraction of the global carbon emissions. 

Museveni, in his arguments has won a number of like-minded people such as Kwasi Kwarteng, UK’s secretary of state for business and energy, who recently published a statement, announcing the launch of another licensing round to explore new oil blocks in UK’s North Sea oil fields. 

The North Sea, he says, has provided a stable domestic supply of oil and gas to UK for the last 50 years, and remains a great asset to insulate UK from depending on Russian hydrocarbons. 


“[We] would not bend to the will of (climate) activists, who naively want to extinguish (oil) production in the UK Continental Shelf. Doing so would put energy security and British jobs at risk,” he notes.   

The common denominator for Museveni and Kwasi is that both continents - Europe and Africa - still have ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming decades as they transition to green energy.  

As UK plans to produce more oil to service rising domestic demand, and wean off dependence on foreign oil imports, Museveni is of the view that in the short term Uganda, and Africa at large could play a crucial role in solving the energy crisis.  

The world will set a new record for renewable power capacity this year led by solar energy in China and Europe, but growth could lose steam in 2023, the International Energy Agency said on May 9, 2022. PHOTO/COURTESY

Oil and gas resources had been predicted to peak, before falling due to depletion. However, this argument was largely theoretical fronted by geologist Marion King Hubbert in the 1950’s, who was working with Shell at the time. 

However, until now, the oil peak debate still remains a prediction at least, according to Dennis Kakembo, an energy legal expert, who asserts that the world has not reached the peak because of the unpredictable nature of the global economy.    

“We live in a world that is dependent on energy from oil and gas, and without it, the world comes to a standstill,” he says, noting that whereas there are several sources of energy, at the moment, there has been no major substitutes for oil. 

For instance, in the transport sector that renewable is trying to address through electric cars, he says, cars must undergo several tests to reach acceptable standards, which could take long.  

“If you have to stop fossil fuels, you need to show us there are alternatives,” Kakembo notes.  Ernest Rubondo, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda chief executive officer, believes oil and gas will continue to be viable for at least the next 40 or so years because of prevailing demand. 

Additionally, he notes, there are some oil and gas products, which cannot easily be replaced by renewable energy such as tyres, car seats, polyester for clothing and bitumen for road construction, among others.  

However, even as he concedes that oil negatively impacts the environment, he says this being addressed. 
For instance, he says, the gas from oil fields will be only be used to produce leaner liquefied petroleum gas in addition to existing plans to use solar energy in oil and gas activities such as heating the crude oil pipeline. 

However, in any case, Kakembo says, there are still other alternatives to mitigate global warming without necessarily eliminating fossils such companies opting to manufacture cars that are cleaner and emit less carbon, or plant carbon trees to absorb the carbon. 

Energy economics       
Just like nuclear energy, the debate has been what could be costly to use between oil and renewable energy sources. 

Renewable energy in the long run has been predicted to be cheaper, but for now, Kakembo says, the upfront costs could inhibit entrance of players in the market or even potential consumers in. 

The economics of renewable energy visa- vis oil and gas could become better if oil prices are extremely  high.

One argument is that if crude oil costs $120 per barrel, which could triple after refining and transportation, and it’s probably costs $1,000 to install a solar kit, then one can have a case for renewable energy against the more expensive oil. 

President Museveni: 

For more than a decade, Europe, Britain and US have been trying to transition to renewable energy. Off course, their green ambitions are laudable, but the way they are going about realising them - imposing a moratorium on fossil fuel investment at home and abroad - is misguided.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.