Global gas crisis derails Africa's transition to clean energy

Oct 27, 2021|Noelle Okwedy

When we think about national security, specific images come to mind: armies, weapons of mass destruction, terrorists, bandits. But not all threats to national security brandish AK-47s. 

Case in point: energy.

Energy is essential for industrial production, heating, transportation, technology, and every other sector you can think of—even mining cryptocurrency. So, imagine if there wasn't enough energy to go around? That would be a crisis and a threat to national or international security. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy security is the "uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price".

Some takeaways:
  • Energy security, the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price, is essential for every country.

  • The world is currently experiencing an energy crisis due to global natural gas shortages, reduced availability of cleaner energy sources and regression to coal for energy harmful to the environment. 

  • Given that energy security is crucial and countries like Nigeria have lower electrification rates, the current crisis underscores why Nigeria needs more time than others to transition away from dirtier energy sources.

However, this definition is the opposite of what is happening today. The world is currently experiencing a threat to international energy security due to global natural gas shortages. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, accounting for 23% of global energy demand and almost a quarter of electricity generation. Because it is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, natural gas is better for the environment when compared to other fossil fuels like coal and oil. But due to this global supply shortage, places like China and Europe are returning to coal, an energy source long written off due to its severe environmental impact. The situation is also why cooking gas prices are so scary and why oil prices are higher than they have been for over five years.

The current crisis fascinates me for one reason: many countries have come under pressure to transition to cleaner energy sources. The goal is to achieve net-zero (zero carbon emissions) by 2050 to stop the planet's temperature from rising. This goal is informing a lot of policy decisions that relate to energy. In February this year, World Bank board members from Europe urged the Bank's management to implement a new plan to cease investments in coal and oil projects and gradually step down investments in natural gas projects.

These kinds of decisions pressure Sub-Saharan African countries to transition

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