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Ghana’s economic growth minus fossil fuels

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Adnan Adams Mohammed
The past three centuries of progress have been powered by coal, oil and gas (collectively termed as fossil fuel).
It is widely and undoubtedly acclaimed that, fossil fuel consumption is inevitable in both obvious and subtle ways. The widespread uses of these resources have immensely improved living conditions across the globe. From the use of electricity, the vehicles we operate and most of the goods consumed, fossil fuels are arguably the spine of modern society because the productive and meaningful lives we are accustomed to would simply be impossible without fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels provide substantial economic benefits. These same fuels also represent the economic mainstay of resource-rich countries and the world’s largest firms.

It is arguable that, any steps humanity takes to reduce climate-warming emissions will damage commercial opportunities. Relief for the climate means danger for the fossil fuel business.

Rising concerns against fossil fuel use

However, in past and recent decades, a series of concerns have been raised about the environmental cost of fossil fuel use. It is alluded that, burning much of what is left will lead to environmental and economic catastrophe.
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The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) at its 2017 Conference revealed that, indoor air pollution because of the use of fossil fuel caused 2 million death in 2016, and 4 million as at October, 2017, this figure is four times the number that dies from malaria. 85% of the 4 million are women and children. This is worse than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.
Therefore we are compelled to come out with alternatives and policies on how to save the earth without giving up on growth.
Policies aimed at controlling and reducing emissions by fossil-fuel users are driving a wedge between consumers and producers, while investor confidence in renewables continues to grow.
This combination means that, although the age of cheap oil production may not yet be over, the age of cheap oil use is coming to an end.
Also, the International Energy Agency (IEA) Director, Fatih Birol asserted that, two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves should not be depleted to ensure the prevention of average global temperatures rising by more than 2°C.

Most developed countries, like the United States, have enacted Acts that address the dangers of fossil fuels combustion. Notably, the United States Clean Air Act of 1970 and 1977 addresses the potential effects of airborne conventional pollutants and further imposes regulations and standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments around the world have imposed myriad restrictions on the consumption of fossil fuel. For example, British Columbia’s relatively longstanding carbon tax is credited with a 13% reduction in per capita emissions between 2008 and 2013. United States former President, Barack Obama pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 level by 2025. Yet, in many of the world’s largest and developing economies, fossil fuel consumption is still exacting heavy toll on human health.

Ghana situation
Contrary to this, in Ghana currently, there are few policy responses aimed at limiting the consumption of fossil fuel. Aside being a large consumer of fossil fuels, it is also a fossil fuel producing nation. The Energy Minister, Boakye Agyarko recently related that, the current Akuffo Addo led administration’s policy for the upstream oil industry was to undertake aggressive exploration by incorporating and attracting the right partners to conduct operations to serve as a catalyst for economic growth.
The minister said, Ghana still has a large and relatively unexplored sedimentary basin with huge oil and gas potential. Out of the total offshore area of about 256,000 square km, only 30 percent is licensed for exploration.
Ghana joined the Oil Producing Nations in 2010 when it experienced its first commercial oil production from the Jubilee Oilfield. Currently there are 17 active exploration and production agreements signed between the Government of Ghana and other international and local oil firms to explore petroleum resources.
This seems a threat to the efforts towards cutting down the reliance on fossil fuel to power the world economy.
The question here is: are we consuming fossil fuels because of their economic benefits? Are we employing strategic measures to minimize fossil fuel consumption? Are we ignorant about the economic benefit of going 100% renewable?
Global Agenda
The goal seven (7) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) talked about Affordable and clean energy. It stipulates that, “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people with access to electricity has increased by 1.7 billion, and as the global population continues to rise, so will the demand for cheap energy. A global economy reliant on fossil fuels and the increase of greenhouse gas emissions is creating drastic changes to the climate system. This is having a visible impact on every continent.

However, there has been a new drive to encourage alternative energy sources, and in 2011 renewable energy accounted for more than 20 percent of global power generated. Still one in five people lack access to electricity, and as the demand continues to rise there is the need to be a substantial increase in the production of renewable energy across the world.

Ensuring universal access to affordable electricity by 2030 means investing in clean energy sources such as solar, wind and thermal. Adopting cost-effective standards for a wider range of technologies could also reduce the global electricity consumption by buildings and industry by 14 percent. This means avoiding roughly 1,300 mid-size power plants. Expanding infrastructure and upgrading technology to provide clean energy sources in all developing countries is a crucial goal that can both encourage growth and help the environment.

Sustainable energy is one of 17 Global Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. An integrated approach is crucial for progress across the multiple goals.

With the numerous potential benefit of going 100% renewable, this article presents four (4) main potential benefits of renewable energy consumption.

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Consistent and sustained energy supply
The problem of energy shortage has affected the country for decades. Shorts in energy supply from existing traditional sources such as oil and hydroelectricity have pushed the designated authorities to adopt power-rationing strategies. The un-sustainability and inconsistency in energy supply has led to the unstable power syndrome, christened in Ghana as ‘dumsor’. In order to increase productivity, supply from sustainable sources is key.

Renewable resources such as sunlight are in abundant supply and probably will never deplete or run out. Thus, renewable energy can serve Ghana as its sustainable and consistent source of energy and save it from the problem of shortages which routinely affect the nation.

Clean and healthy environment
The use of fossils fuels for energy emits greenhouse gases through combustion, and causes a number of health problems for humans, food, and the general environment. Studies by various scholars, based on their results, all conclude that renewable sources of energy are environmentally friendly. Relative to fossil fuels, renewable sources of energy have low or zero carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Key inputs for renewable sources of energy including biomass, sunlight, water and wind generate zero harmful pollutants in the environment. The waste and harmful by-products from using existing fossil fuel-sources would be completely eradicated if Ghana gradually switched to renewables.
Reports from extant literature show that a solar-hydrogen system produces zero (0) carbon dioxide (CO2), 0 carbon monoxide (CO), 0 sulphur dioxide (SO2), 0.10 oxides of nitrogen (NOx), 0 hydrocarbons (HC) and 0 particulate matter (PM). Thus, environmental-related issues such as premature death of humans, loss of livestock and wildlife, reduction in crop yield due to acid-rain, loss of fish population, air pollution and sea level rise would be minimised massively should the country switch to hundred percent renewables.
Spurring economic growth
Numerous factors such as fossil fuel production and trade, deployment of renewable energy etc. influences GDP growth. A large share of GDP growth is driven by the increased investments needed to deploy the high capital needs of renewables. Compared with most investment options, the capital-intensive nature of deploying renewable energy technologies triggers GDP growth.
More specifically, the total cost of a renewable energy plant is an upfront investment on physical assets as against fossil fuel expenditure throughout the lifecycle of the plant. Surges in energy demand correspond to proportionate investments in energy infrastructure. To ensure free-flow of sustainable energy systems and to realise potential benefits on investments, energy sector investments need to be directed toward renewable energy systems. Investment in renewable energy across all sectors needs to be scaled up substantially.
Jobs creation
Globally, the energy sector has played the dual role of fueling economy-wide development and supporting a large number of jobs. Growth of the renewable energy sector over the past decade and its impact on job-creation has been a silver-lining for employment in the energy sector. Employment trends vary widely across renewable energy technologies.
For example, Solar PV is solidifying as the largest employer in renewable energy, due to the ever-increasing global production as lower cost connotes accelerated growth installation. Furthermore, distribution of solar PV offers numerous feasible and affordable ways in improving access to energy. Here again, solar panels distribution, assembly and provision of after-sales service contribute to creating jobs in an economy.
As jobs in renewable energy expand, the ability to gather sound information on status and trends of employment will enable informed policy choices and measures. More specifically, data insights and analyses are crucial to monitoring policy effectiveness.  Recognising the pressing need for going 100% renewable, it is appropriate to explore various aspects of renewable energy jobs within the context of a wider green energy sector.
Though Ghana is not a major greenhouse gas emitter – in order to fulfill energy demand by the populace – gradually substituting fossils for renewables would be beneficial. The energy-related greenhouse gases would be eliminated, the galloping prices would be halted, energy supply would be consistent, and the environment would be clean and healthy for human, animal and plant survival.

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