African countries are now focusing using coal as a power source. Tanzania and Kenya are planning to develop its first coal-fired power plant. Ghana and Nigeria are eyeing to expand the use of coal for electricity. Botswana is already building a 1,000-mile railway to transport coal to a port in neighboring Namibia to be exported to the world.
Africa has an abundant resource for coal. South Africa gets 93 percent of its electricity from coal.
John Owusu, a retired engineer from Ghana, worked for 50 years across all regions of Africa on the early disciple of clean energy understands Africa’s appetite for a fossil fuel as well as the reluctance to embrace alternative fuel sources.
Owusu said, people think of Africa as a continent of jungle and sunshine, but Africa also has a long rainy season in the tropics, more like a monsoon, and there’s no sun for days. The weather makes it hard to rely on something like solar while wind turbines need batteries to store the power.
Owusu also said, electricity in town helps with investments and creating new jobs. Even health has effects from uncertain energy sources like vaccines, snakebite serum, even HIV drugs should be kept in a fridge. In many places in Africa, it is not possible due to lack of electricity.
Concerns about coal were expressed by environmentalists and climate researchers in the West mostly by white expatriates and foreign non-governmental organizations.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently said coal and other fossil fuels are critical to bridging the continent’s massive energy gap. Annan concluded an abrupt shift away from coal is not realistic for most African governments. This was his report of the Africa Progress Panel on energy.
Annan added that they are advocating African governments to harness every available energy option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient manner as possible, so that no one is left behind
Nigerian Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun told a joint IMF-World Bank meeting late last year, that Nigeria has coal but has a power problem. They have been blocked because it is not green. There is some hypocrisy because they have the entire Western industrialization built on coal energy.
It is said that the use of solar energy is perfect for Africa but on a continent where a third of the population lives under the official U.N. poverty line, solar power users needs to hire armed guards in order to prevent the coveted solar panels from being stolen.
This is a common story even across Asia and even in Brazil. In the rural districts near Mumbai, India, nearly 2,000 villages and smaller settlements were provided solar power in 2012. But now, nearly all of the equipment are broken or stolen, the government is putting the region on the coal-powered grid. India gets more than half of its electricity source from coal.
Kenya’s first coal-fired station will be set-up near Lamu. This will contribute Kenya’s energy source since 60 percent of Kenyans have no access to the power grid.
Congo’s forest is being cleared as fast as in the Amazon Wood are used for cooking and heating. Research says Nigeria already lost three-quarters of its tree in the past 40 years. The lack of power in poor the continent is seen as a public crisis than the relative environmental virtues of coal compared with solar, natural gas, the wind or other power sources. Tanzania refurbished the docks from an unused port in Mtwara to export coal from nearby mines.
In U.S., President Trump plans to reopen pits in Wyoming and mines in Kentucky and West Virginia, Africa mines and uses fossil fuel in ever greater quantities.
Griffin Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for energy resources, said It is the prerogative of every country to determine their energy mix, whether it’s coal or natural gas or renewable energy, it is the pathway toward greater economic growth.
Mr. Thompson added the there is a need to look at “what would be required to facilitate the sort of coal technology” other countries may need.