By Clayton Shereni

African countries including Zimbabwe have been urged to turn to natural gas energy use as a way to save it from environmental destruction induced by over reliance of wood-based biomass energy.

The African Energy Chamber (AEC) recently revealed that the continent has 620 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves but has an over reliance on wood-based biomass energy remains high, resulting in increased land degradation, deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.

It also revealed that over 900 million people across the continent live without access to clean cooking.

AEC Executive Chairman, NJ Ayuk has called upon the African continent to improve its investment towards natural gas considering its critical role in preserving the environment.

“The AEC, as the voice of the African energy sector, strongly advocates for the scaling up of natural gas investment and development across Africa, recognizing role played by the resource in improving energy access and security, while enabling emission and deforestation reduction,” said Ayuk.

He further stated that Africa can have its own energy independence but stressed on the need to have new strategies to gather resources aimed at improving use of natural gas.

”With the increased use of natural gas, the African continent is well positioned to achieve energy independence, security and de-carbonization targets at the same time reducing emissions and the destruction of our forests. Africa needs to come up with new ways to fund and fast-track the exploitation of its natural gas resources to achieve this. Not only will natural gas help reduce emissions but also provides African governments with much-needed GDP to fund the growth of the overall economy,” he added.

Use of natural gas is also expected to improve working conditions and bring decent remuneration to energy sector workers who had been facing challenges at their work places due to climate and environment change effects.

However, the AEC Chairman bemoaned lack of will by many African governments to embrace the use of clean energy as they resort to traditional sources of energy that are enhancing climate change and have serious implications on the environment.

“However, if fully optimized and exploited, the continent’s natural gas resources present an opportunity for Africa to address environmental destruction, ensure clean cooking for its population while also guaranteeing energy security and economic growth, “said Ayuk.

He also added that: “In this regard, countries such as Nigeria, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, where biomass use is particularly high due to limited access to reliable electricity, could expand the exploitation of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to ensure clean cooking for the population while also improving energy access.”

The African energy institution further added that over 81 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa rely on wood-based biomass energy for cooking.

Despite destruction of the environment, the organization said many lives were being lost in the continent due to use of unclean sources of energy.

This has been supported by the World Health Organization that has linked millions of deaths in rural Africa to indoor emissions resulting from the continued and increased use of biomass.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is currently ranked number 114 in natural gas consumption across the globe making it one of the worst countries when it comes to embracing its use.