Tom Alweendo, Namibia Minister of Mines & Energy, is the man charged with formulating the country’s energy strategy and is adamant that its oil and gas will be exploited to the full in combination with its significant renewable potential.
There is a strong feeling among African politicians that wealthy western countries want to stop them investing in their fossil fuel resources and switch rapidly to renewables, even though the continent has contributed only about 3% of the world’s carbon emissions since the industrial revolution.
They note the irony of Western nations such as Norway still producing large volumes of hydrocarbons while transitioning and they want the same option.
Commenting on TotalEnergies’ Venus and Shell’s Graff oil and gas discoveries, Alweendo said: “It makes us very excited, but comes at a time when the world is talking about the energy transition and therefore it’s something that we need to grapple with. How do we do that?”
“Oil discoveries are always associated with being a curse, especially on the African continent.
“It doesn’t have to be that way…it can really be very transformative,” he argued at CeraWeek and went on to explain his reasoning.
“In Namibia, we intend to make sure oil discoveries become transformative catalysts for economic development.
“A resource like oil can go a long way to make sure that we create a dynamic economy (that can also encourage further development).”
Alweendo said everyone thinks Africa “is rising now” due to these oil discoveries, but then “someone says ‘wait a minute — we need to start transitioning because this resource is not good for the world, and we need to move on’. And we’re like, ‘That’s not fair!’ It’s not fair at all.”
“When people talk about the energy transition, if you ask an average African, they say ‘we don’t have energy and therefore we cannot be seen to be transitioning from anything, because we need to start doing something.”
He said in 11 African states out of 54, up to 90% of the populations do not have access to electricity, adding that sub-Saharan Africa consumes less electricity per year than the US state of Alabama which has 5 million people.
Nevertheless, Namibia is pursuing a dual approach to energy development.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Alweendo: “I am not saying we don’t care about the climate. We definitely do.
“We know something needs to be done, but I think it would be wrong for people to say simply stop doing it and just go renewable.”
“In Namibia we are doing both. Because of the world-class renewable resource we have in wind and solar, we have a project where we can actually start producing green hydrogen.
“We have… Germany and Belgium teaming up with us to invest in green hydrogen assets.”
“Let us be allowed to use some of these (oil and gas) resources to make sure African economies develop to be in a position to transition.”
Alweendo said he wants every Namibian to have access to affordable and reliable electricity and for the country to become a green hydrogen hub.
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