With the world increasingly becoming focused on decarbonisation, World Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Association chairperson Christoph Reimnitz says the African continent’s decarbonisation journey cannot be compared with that of all other countries.
He explains that while most countries in the northern hemisphere have reached electrification of 100% of their populations many decades ago, most countries across Africa and, more specifically, sub-Saharan Africa, are not yet close to achieving that goal.
For example, Senegal only had 18% of its rural areas electrified by 2018, he points out.
The issue, therefore, is how the continent can increase its electricity penetration but do so in a less-environmentally damaging way, Reimnitz says.
He notes that sub-Saharan Africa can “avoid some of the mistakes, or take better evolutionary steps”, than developed countries and “start electrification with cost competitive renewables without having to invest in carbon intensive fuels, such as coal” first.
Electricity from renewables is, however, intermittent, which means there is the risk of no electricity when the sun does not shine or when the wind does not blow. It is for this reason that Reimnitz stresses the need for dispatchable power, or power that is available on demand.
Considering that dispatchable power is likely to come from fossil fuels, Reimnitz notes that a relatively clean and affordable option would be to consider a liquid fuel option, like gas, or more specifically, LPG.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure is available in about 42 countries across the world, compared with LPG which is available in about 130 countries – nearly four times that of LNG.
The reason for this, Reimnitz explains, is that LPG is widely used as a household gas, for cooking, among others, being brought into countries and stored before transport to distribution centres and local households.
“We already have LPG infrastructure almost everywhere in Africa and its being used for cooking. It should be used for power generation as a natural gas because it’s so similar to LNG,” he comments, urging people to consider using LPG and “leveraging the existing infrastructure”.
This, he elaborates, will allow the continent to leapfrog the energy transition because it allows the continent the opportunity to bypass the complicated and expensive planning processes, and the need for additional investment, that would be experienced if the dispatchable power being considered were LNG.
LPG, although a gas, is similar to diesel in that costs are added every time it has to be shipped as a fuel source.
Diesel in Africa, Reimnitz adds, comes through Africa’s ports, from where it is stored and transported by truck – the same would happen with LPG. “Because LPG is widely used as a household gas, there are trucks available today in almost every country to transport LPG”.