On the opening day of the virtual e-LPG Week, Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), addressed attendees about the role of energy in the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the pandemic has been huge, with declines in energy usage of around 5% and some 20% reduction in investment, a situation not seen since World War II. Corresponding expected drops in global emissions of around 7% are the biggest in history but, as Dr. Birol reported, this is not necessarily good news.
“This decline (in emissions) is not happening because of the right energy policies or new technologies,” stated Dr Birol, “this is happening because of the economic meltdown around the world. Low economic growth is not a low emission strategy” and if governments do not take the right measures to push emissions down, as the global economy recovers, emissions will return to previous levels, added Dr Birol.
Dr Birol went on to say, “We are very well aware of the critical role of LPG in industry, in transportation and most importantly in households across the world, especially in the emerging world. To date about 2.6 billion people, 5 times the population of Europe, have no access to clean cooking. They are using coal, kerosene, agricultural waste, animal waste in certain cases, for cooking. And this is one of the top three reasons, according to a study we carried out with the World Health Organisation (WHO), for premature deaths around the world because of the respiratory diseases that it causes and here, of course, LPG can be a very important option to address this problem and we have seen several good examples.”
The WHO estimates that nearly four million people die prematurely each year from illnesses attributed to polluted household air. LPG is an important and immediate solution to this problem, which not only improves air quality but also lowers global carbon emissions, stops increasing deforestation and improves the lives of women and children.
One example of policy that has gained global recognition for helping poorer families access green cooking fuel, is that of the Indian government with its Ujjwala program. In his address to e-LPG Week, Shikrant Madhav Vaidya, Chairman of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOC), spoke about the success of this program and the importance of e-LPG Week in forming policies and strategy at both global and local level. He said, “During the pandemic, the scheme has been invaluable in giving relief to vulnerable sections of society through national lockdown.”
The Indian government gave three free refills of LPG cylinders between the months of April and June to those below the poverty line. Vaidya went on to say, “LPG has become an indispensable part of the Indian kitchen, with a surge in demand over lockdown of around 17%.”
While offering a life-changing solution to rural communities and a way of lowering global emissions, Dr Birol continued to explain how the LPG community can do more in terms of increasing the availability of renewable LPG. He praised several refineries for their efforts in processing renewable feedstock into various oil products, including bioLPG and concluded that “bioLPG is still in modest quantities but it can, and promises to, play a greater role in years to come.”
Shikrant Madhav Vaidaya concluded by summarising the importance of new energy. While acknowledging the roles of hydrogen and CNG, he said, “LPG plays a vital role in the continuing use of clean energy and ensuring inclusive growth and enhanced sustainability.”
e-LPG Week, a week-long virtual event organised by the World LPG Association, runs online until 6th November 2020, providing a crucial platform for industry experts and leaders to discuss this clean energy solution and the pathway for the future.