Oilwatch Ghana, Civil Society Groups demand: STOP THE COAL DREAM

STOP THE COAL DREAM

If all goes well as  planned by  the  proponents , Ghana will  witness  the first   coal  fired  electricity plant  in  the next three years , to be sited  at  Ekumfi  Aboano,  a fishing  community  in  the Western Region, 85 kilometers from Accra. The government has secured a $1.5billion dollar development loan agreement with China through Shenzhen Energy, a corporation largely owned by the Chinese government to develop the project.

The coal plant is designed to trigger several other infrastructure projects, including a new port facility. The  coal, the raw materials,  will  be  imported from  Colombia and South Africa.

  1. Agreement

We are united in our stance   that, energy  underpins  any form of   human  development and progress in general  and particularly for Ghana, raising no doubt,  about  the  need for Ghana to take   bold  steps in  addressing the vicious cycle of its energy poverty . We equally agree that, lower cost of energy is a game changer in poverty reduction and growth.

However, we believe  that our  energy development  efforts and choices  must be  prudent and consistent with high standard development options and  agreements. Having  studied  the available facts surrounding the  coal-based energy generation, including  the  ESIA  scoping  report,  put forward  by the  proponents  of the coal plant raises questions than answers .

Therefore  our conviction  that Ghana must  refrain  from  the  coal  agenda  is  grounded  in  the following  arguments.  

  1. Cheaper cost of Electricity

 Protagonists of the coal plant including VRA   touts the coal project   as cheaper source of electricity power supply. Though this claim may be said to be right, it presents only one aspect of the argument. Undoubtedly   the cost for the commodity coal is or can be relatively low but mostly because governments the world over are moving away from coal. The other untold aspect lays in the reality that, construction, maintenance and decades of importing a fuel that we do not have   domestically   will be extremely costly and will ultimately mean higher energy tariffs. This is even when the business as usual scenario  of  externalizing  environmental   and  social  including public health  cost factors prevails  - The loan behind this coal plant, stands at a whopping  $1.5billion , Based  on  our initial  assessment  ,we have reasonable  difficulties to believe  that the  coal  venture  holds promise   for  cheap  energy.

  1. Perpetuating Energy Dependency

 Allied to the above position, the coal project brings into memory how similar arguments underpinning previous energy infrastructure turn out to be a nightmare .With reference to the West Africa Gas Pipeline. In the mid 2000 Ghana   contracted millions of  investment  loans  towards the  construction of  the  WAGP which was billed to  solve  our energy  challenges  through  exporting  gas from Nigeria’s   oil and gas  fields. Inspire of this  today , Ghana   continues    the  bitter experience  of erratic power supply and the reason as we have come to know it is not farfetched .Supply failure from the WAGP  has been cited  on many occasions .This  drives    home  a lesson  about the   price  to pay  by  relying   on  external  sources for our  energy needs . The Coal dream is on  - on course  to  consolidate  Ghana’s   dependency  under which arrangement  we cannot discount  our  vulnerability and potential  risk    to  supply  failures    We have no coal here in Ghana, unlike the abundant gas, sunshine, and wind resources that we are naturally blessed with. 

  1. Exporting outdated and Rejected Technology to Ghana

The proposed project would build “supercritical” coal-fired power plants – a type of coal plant commercialized in the 1960s, at a time when many countries   including  developing  countries  like China, a staunch apostle of this  project are moving  away from coal as fast as possible because of pollution, climate change impacts  informing  the  global  efforts   targeted at  Energy transformation  and  economic restructuring. In March this year, China halted the construction of coal plants in 15 regions, and the Chinese have passed a law requiring all new coal plants to meet the efficiency of an ultra-supercritical plant or better.

The “supercritical” plant   being proposed for Ghana falls out of the new standards set in china   , arguably too dirty to be legally built in China. The Chinese and their   Ghanaian allies  claim for using  this outdated technology is that , the plants are too small (two 350 MW plants) is  untenable   reason being that even  if  we have to go the goal way  building  one, 700 MW plant that can use ultra-supercritical or IGCC tec and technology?  Should be the roadmap instead of the current proposal which will only succeed in producing dirty energy. 

  1. Pollution and Climate Factor

Further, the proposed technology is too old and inefficient to impact meaningfully on  carbon capture and storage.
Burning coal emits roughly twice the pollution of burning gas, making it the largest contributor to climate change.  Experts believe that solving the threat of global warming, will require countries to capture store the carbon dioxide released by coal plants. Noting  that the average life  span  of a coal plant is over 50 years convinces the  International Energy Agency  to  call for phase out inefficient coal-fired plants  as a means  to   meet  the  global climate targets

  1. Leadership,Inspiration and Contradiction

It cannot be for nothing that Ghana’s   former president ( president JA Kuffour ), was  a   former UN climate change Envoy  . Through the leadership of president Kuffour ,Ghana espoused the  need for  extended  action on climate change, notably  during  the 2015  international climate talks in Paris last year. Weighed against  this leadership role , for   Ghana to be  threading the coal path particularly  in the  form it has been fashioned  stands at odds  with  our  leadership role  within the international Climate  change  debate   arena . Not reversing our steps   will   mean locking  ourselves  into over a half century of  emitting large green house gas  substances 

Similarly , in  a  Presidential statement last year, the China’s President Xi promised to “strengthen green and low-carbon policies and regulations with a view to strictly controlling public investment flowing in to projects with high pollution and carbon emissions both domestically and  internationally.” This project would be indirect violation of the Chinese President’s statement .

Demands

On the strength of the above, we herewith make the following demands

1. We must refrain from the coal agenda, uphold the path for a transformative energy system , consistent with global development trends  while charting the path towards  real people centered energy future affirmed in the value of renewable.

2.Ghana must  takes steps not to violate the country’s obligation under the Sustainable Development Goals which enjoins  countries to take step that ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The recent Paris climate change agreement states that ‘all Parties should strive to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.’

 

Conclusion

Instead of burdening the rest of the world with high-carbon, polluting infrastructure, China, the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy, should work with countries like Ghana to create a clean energy future.  Halt the coal initiative and redirect investment into renewable.