NLNG boss says Africa’s energy poverty should factor in calls for transition

The advocacy for the transition from fossil fuels must accommodate the reality of energy poverty in other parts of the world including Africa and Asia to achieve a just transition, says the head of Nigeria’s biggest gas company.

Philip Mshelbila, MD/CEO of Nigeria LNG in remarks at the World Gas Conference which was held in the Republic of Korea between May 23 -27, during a panel session on Friday, said as the world considers what Energy Transition means, “we must include the narrative of Energy poverty of the people of Africa.”

“The perspective from Africa is often missing when we talk about energy transition and energy security, I want to look at this from the perspective of balancing the environment, economy and livelihoods of people,” said Mshelbila.

With an estimated 16 percent of the world’s population or 1.2 billion people having limited or low access to electricity and half of those living in Africa, the NLNG boss argued that for these people, the conversation about which type of energy to use is irrelevant, “the only conversation they have is about access to any form of energy to get them through the day.”

He noted that the conversation about energy transition must take into consideration energy security for people who live without electricity, where the basic essentials of life actually happen without any form of real mobility, where cooking is done with firewood and charcoal.

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Africa’s biggest oil producer struggles to keep the light on with grid power supplied to businesses and homes on average around 4,000MW for over 2oo million people whose population is projected to reach 400 million by 2050, trailing India and China.

“So, energy poverty in addition to other forms of poverty is the reality and as we contemplate energy security and energy transition it is important to think about how this imbalance, how that segment of the world will thrive,” said Mshelbila.

The company he heads, Nigeria LNG, started operations in 1999 and has grown rapidly to have six trains that produce 22Million tonnes per annum of LNG and is currently on course to build a new Train 7.

“One of the key drivers to setting up the NLNG was to address gas flaring,” said Mshelbila, noting that Nigeria has been one of the top three gas flares in the world together with Iraq and Russia and the establishment of NLNG cut gas flaring in Nigeria from over 60 percent to around 12 percent.

NLNG makes a huge contribution to Nigeria’s economy. It is the country’s biggest taxpayer and contributes a material dividend to the government. It is ramping social investments from healthcare to education and enterprise development to job creation.

The NLNG boss said the company is helping in the fight against climate change by helping to displace the use of charcoal and firewood in cooking with LPG in the form of butane and propane, which is cleaner.

NLNG’s supply accounts for about 40 percent of the total market but Mshelbila said the company targets to supply 100 percent of its LPG production into the local market.

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