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Energy poverty and climate change mitigation in Ghana: An economic assessment

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J.D. Quartey
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Produced for the Development and Mitigation Forum in Cape Town, January 2014, this paper presents an economic assessment of energy poverty and climate change mitigation in Ghana. The paper summarises the current state of energy use, related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy poverty, and mitigation, and estimates their likely trends and subsequent future impacts.
Ghana has experienced high economic growth in recent years, yet like many African nations, the bulk of energy consumption is based on fuelwood. Natural forest provide 90 per cent of the supply of fuelwood, leading to forest degradation, deforestation, and the release of GHG emissions. Reducing this demand is therefore an important mitigation strategy; a challenging task for an energy sector that is vulnerable to climate shocks, faces increasing demand, and the need to limit investment in conventional fossil fuels.
The paper defines energy poverty and examines its relationship with development, particularly the fact that Ghana’s economic growth has been accompanied by rapidly increasing fuelwood use. The authors then link energy poverty, fuelwood use, and GHG emissions, pointing out that while regrowth makes sustainable fuelwood burning viable, declining access to natural forests presents a significant problem both for wellbeing and GHG emissions (through degradation).
Finally, the authors summarise their findings in the conclusion:
Forest and grassland conversion through deforestation has reduced carbon sink capacity and increased emissions in Ghana’s forestry sector.
Hydropower’s vulnerability to drought has led to the view that the development of petroleum-fired thermal plants is an energy security necessity, representing a major threat to low carbon development in Ghana’s energy sector.
There must be greater integration of Ghana’s forestry and energy sectors to ensure reduced deforestation and increased energy security.
There is currently no competitive alternative to fuelwood as the primary household fuel; liquefied petroleum gas subsidies would need to be three times higher to affect change without negative outcomes.
Ghana’s practical situation indicates a lack of preparedness to eliminate energy poverty, meaning fuelwood is likely to predominate, and increase, for some time to come. * Energy poverty brings climate shock vulnerability: increased forest degradation, increasing emissions, and eventually a source of decreasing welfare.
Promoting energy forest plantations, improved charcoal stoves, and improved charcoal production kilns can bring greater efficiency, create jobs for rural communities, and deliver climate mitigation funding.