Thursday, June 11, 2015

Will Nigeria Survive European Energy Union?

Will Nigeria Survive European Energy Union?
11 June, 2015
Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku,  communications manager, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) , takes a look at the recent launch of energy project by European Nations and its impact on Nigeria’s Economy
On the 25th day of February, 2015 three very senior members of the European Union, EU,  Jean Claude Juncker, Miguel Arias Cañete and Maros Sefcovic, sat down in Brussels to brainstorm the idea of an Energy Union, EU within the EU. They are President, Vice President responsible for the Energy Union and Commissioner for Climate Action & Energy respectively of the EU. One of them, Maroš Šef?ovi? reportedly told his comrades: “Today, we launch the most ambitious European energy project since the Coal and Steel Community. A project that will integrate our 28 European energy markets into one Energy Union, make Europe less energy dependent and give the predictability that investors so badly need to create jobs and growth. Today, we set in motion a fundamental transition towards a low-carbon and climate-friendly economy, towards an Energy Union that puts citizens first, by offering them more affordable, secure, and sustainable energy.  
That concept of an Energy Union that Sefcovic referred to is to be based on a framework strategy for an energy union tied to a climate change policy. Information gleaned from the EU website indicate that the EU is the largest importer of energy in the world, with 53% of that import amounting to a record Euro 400billion. For its transport needs, the EU relies on oil and most of it is imported from Nigeria, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. If we look at the records at the site a little closer, it may surprise a lot of people that of the 12 European Union member states that cannot meet the EU’s minimum interconnection target – that is, to meet at least 10% of installed capacity production capacity, includes the United Kingdom. In addition to that, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia are among the countries in Europe that depend on a single external supplier – Russia – for one commodity that Nigeria flares daily -  gas.
Therefore, arising from that meeting, the European Union plans that by 2030 – about 15 years from today – they will cut Green House Gas (GHG), emissions by at least 40%. They will also boost renewable energy and improve energy efficiency by at least 27%.  As we have this discussion, a Southern Gas Corridor intended to develop the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers in Central and Eastern Europe is already being developed. Since most of Europe would soon depend absolutely on renewable energy – solar, biomass, wind and hydro power for their electricity needs, part of the plan of the EU Energy Union includes a full implementation of existing legislation and market rules to integrate these renewable into all European markets, and a promotion of more research into renewable energy production and the decarbonisation of the transport sector.
I have read two documents indirectly related to this plan by the EU to start an Energy union. One is an ongoing, unfinished 324-page research thesis by my friend Maruf Mallick, a Bangladeshi doctorate student from the University of Bonn, Germany, titled Politics of Climate Change.  Mallick and I go way back in Germany on a training tour of the environment and how to report on it as journalists. In that document of his, I find that there is a certain concerted effort by Europe and Asia to form alliances, the BRICS, the BASIC, LMDC and etcetera, all geared towards one goal – to jettison the old political alliances based on military and economic might for the new ones that will ensure that they would no longer rely on oil for their economic and military power. Presiding over this new balance of power and world order of new alliances to which the US has already been supplanted is the behemoth itself – China. More than any other country of the world, China, once known to be one of the highest green house gas emitter, has nearly completed a domestic programme of renewable energy that would make it impossible for it to ever buy oil again from Nigeria, Venezuela or from Iran. When that happens, Mallick says in his thesis that those who would hurt the most are the countries in the Middle East, like Nigeria, that depend on oil for her income.
The other document is an article by my colleague, Charles Iyare, of our monitoring and evaluation department, titled ‘Curtailing the curse of the energy sector’, and published with the Punch, May 21, and May 24 2015 with the Daily Independent newspaper.  In that article, Mr. Iyare was adamant that we seem to be under a curse, from our inability to translate the huge potentials from our natural endowment to a blessing for our people. According to Iyare,  ‘part of the challenges of poor electricity supply in Nigeria is the lack of alternative energy source (Nigeria has hydro, thermal, solar and wind electricity sources to tap from to boost her power supply but has not managed to do this effectively over the years). Government should understand that electricity is a major economic booster that can make a country self-sufficient in job creation, economic productivity and growth. It is the means of encouraging young entrepreneurs to advance in business and shun crime and corruption’.
Two common denominators emerge from this plan by the EU for the EU – one, if the plans to replace the EU transport sector dependence on oil succeeds, wouldn’t that mean that we have lost our national garri?  Second, with China, the second biggest emitter of Green House Gases, GHG, taking the lead to reduce its carbon emissions by as much as 40%, wouldn’t that translate to a Post-Kyoto Nigeria where our oil and gas becomes irrelevant?
Just last week, OPEC celebrated its 167th Conference and its golden anniversary at a time of great glut. A barrel of oil is only $45, and instead of tinkering with the idea of joining the Conference of Parties, COP, in the climate change mitigation and adaptation debates going in the world as an interested party, OPEC is still pumping oil. And Nigerians, we are still carrying on as if all is still well. There cannot be any time than now for us to ‘change’ and begin to seriously diversify, join alliances and implement the kind of domestic programmes, China is creating to mitigate and adapt to the coming catastrophe of climate change and dwindling income from oil.