Radar | Jan 23,2021
Sep 3 , 2022
By Bjorn Lomborg ( Bjorn Lomborg is the president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. )
It is immoral to block the path for low-income countries to develop. Instead, rich countries need to invest massively in the innovation needed to ensure that green energy costs drop below fossil fuels, writes Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus and visiting fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
The rich world’s fossil fuel hypocrisy is on full display in its response to the global energy crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While the wealthy G7 countries admonish the world’s poor to use only renewables because of climate concerns, Europe and the United States are going begging to Arab nations to expand oil production. Germany is reopening coal power plants, while Spain and Italy are ramping up African gas production. So many European countries have asked Botswana to mine more coal that the country will have to triple its exports.
A single person in the rich world uses more fossil fuel energy than all the energy available to 23 poor Africans. The rich world became wealthy by massively exploiting fossil fuels, which today provides more than three-quarters of its energy. Solar and wind deliver less than 3 percent of the rich world’s energy.
Yet, the rich are choking off funding for any new fossil fuels in the developing world. Most of the world’s poorest four billion people have no meaningful energy access, so the rich blithely tell them to ‘leapfrog’ from no energy to a green nirvana of solar panels and wind turbines.
This promised nirvana is a sham consisting of wishful thinking and green marketing. The world’s rich would never accept off-grid, renewable energy themselves — and nor should the world’s poor. Consider the experience of Dharnai, a village which Greenpeace tried to turn into India’s first solar-powered community in 2014.
Greenpeace received glowing, global media attention when it declared that Dharnai would refuse “to give into the trap of the fossil fuel industry.” But the day the solar electricity was turned on, the batteries were drained within hours. A boy remembers wanting to do his homework, but there was not enough power for his family’s one lamp.
Villagers were prohibited from using fridges or TVs because they would exhaust the system. They could not use electric cookstoves, so had to continue burning wood and dung, which create terrible air pollution. Across the developing world, millions die from indoor pollution that the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is equivalent to each person smoking two packs of cigarettes daily.
Greenpeace invited the state’s chief minister to admire their handiwork. He was met by a crowd waving signs demanding “real electricity” (the kind used to run a refrigerator or a stove, and that children can use to do their homework) and not “fake electricity” (meaning solar energy that could do none of these things).
When Dharnai was finally connected to the power grid, more and more people dropped their solar connections. An academic study found a big reason was that the overwhelmingly coal-powered grid electricity was three times cheaper than the solar energy. What is more, it could actually power appliances people wanted like TVs and stoves. Today, the disused solar power system is covered in thick dust, and the project site is a cattle shed.
To be sure, solar energy can charge a cell phone and run a light, which can be useful—but it is often expensive. A new study on solar lamps in India’s most populous state shows that even with hefty subsidies, solar lamps are worth much less than their cost for most people. In rich countries like Germany and Spain, most solar and wind would never have been installed if not for subsidies.
Solar and wind are incapable of delivering the power needed for industrialisation, powering water pumps, tractors and machines — all the ingredients needed to lift people out of poverty. As rich countries are now also discovering, solar and wind energy remain fundamentally unreliable. No sun or wind means no power. Battery technology offers no answers: Globally today, there are only enough batteries to power global average electricity consumption for 1 minute and 15 seconds. Even by 2030, with a projected rapid battery scaleup, they would last less than 12 minutes. For context, every German winter, when solar is at its minimum, there is near-zero wind energy available for at least five days, or more than 7,000 minutes.
This is why the rich world is on-track to continue to mostly rely on fossil fuels for decades. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that even if all current climate promises are delivered, fossil fuels will still constitute two-thirds of the rich world’s energy in 2050. The developing world sees the hypocrisy, as elegantly formulated by Nigeria’s vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo.
“No one in the world has been able to industrialise using renewable energy,” he said. Yet, Africa has “been asked to industrialise using renewable energy when everybody else in the world knows that we need gas-powered industries for business.”
Instead of immorally blocking the path for other countries to develop, rich countries need to invest massively in the innovation needed to ensure that green energy costs drop below fossil fuels. This way, everyone in the world will be able to afford to switch to renewable alternatives. Insisting that the world’s poor live without fossil fuels is virtue signaling that plays with other people’s lives.
PUBLISHED ON Sep 03,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1166]
Radar | Jan 23,2021
Radar | Sep 04,2022
Radar | Dec 26,2020
Radar | Feb 18,2023
Agenda | Oct 09,2021
Radar | Nov 23,2019
Radar | Feb 15,2020
Fortune News | Mar 11,2023
Commentaries | Aug 13,2022
Verbatim | May 11,2019
Photo Gallery | 66984 Views | May 06,2019
Photo Gallery | 58756 Views | Apr 26,2019
Fortune News | 51763 Views | Jul 18,2020
Fortune News | 51420 Views | Sep 01,2021
Commentaries | Mar 18,2023
Life Matters | Mar 18,2023
My Opinion | Mar 18,2023
Sunday with Eden | Mar 18,2023
Agenda | Mar 18,2023
Editorial | Mar 18,2023
Dec 24 , 2022
Biniam Mikru heads the department of cabinet affairs under Mayor Adanech Abiebie. But...
Jul 2 , 2022 . By RUTH TAYE
On a rainy afternoon last week, a coffee processing facility in the capital's Akaki-Qality District was abuzz with activ...
Nov 27 , 2021
Against my will, I have witnessed the most terrible defeat of reason and the most sa...
Nov 13 , 2021
Plans and reality do not always gel. They rarely do in a fast-moving world. Every act...
Leaders of the National Election Board are in a charm offensive mood, of a sort. Last week, they organised a rare tour for members of the me...
When the country's most senior diplomats and envoys return back to their posts after two-week debriefings, they leave behind a point or two...
Mar 18 , 2023
Ethiopia's economy once hailed as a paragon of growth and development, now faces a co...
Mar 11 , 2023
Ethiopia is rapidly emerging as one of China's top African debtors, second only to An...
Mar 4 , 2023
Once again, Ethiopia has claimed international attention in the past few weeks for re...
Feb 25 , 2023
Millions of people in Ethiopia have continued to be deprived of access to information...
I met Solomon Desta a couple of years ago. He lives and works in a religious institu...
A comedian made a joke about how citizens' wishes are not granted but rather what government thinks is ou...
Mar 18 , 2023
Residents in the capital are all too familiar with the rationing of running water supply as the 0.48 million cubic meters of water pumped ou...
Mar 18 , 2023 . By MUNIR SHEMSU
Consumers in the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State feel the pinch of a high cost of living, exacerbated by...
Mar 18 , 2023 . By AKSAH ITALO
A Korean-based consultancy firm, DONG IL Engineering Consultants bagged the contract to conduct a detaile...
Mar 18 , 2023 . By AKSAH ITALO
Authorities raise the minimum price threshold for horticultural products on vegetables and fruits exporte...
Or see contact page