• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Renewable energy and roadmap to solving Nigeria’s energy crisis


Christiane Amanpour, the widely acclaimed television host, once remarked in an interview with former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013, “What should I tell the people (Nigerians) who keep contacting us (CNN) and saying they hope they have electricity just to be able to watch this interview on their televisions? Clearly, power is still a big problem in Nigeria”.

Amanpour made this remark after President Jonathan had implied during the interview that Nigerians knew that there was a significant improvement in electricity supply in the country, but little did he know that majority of Nigerians who had reacted to his claim on the social media page of CNN debunked the President’s overly sunny view of the state of the power sector.

What followed was Mr. President labouring to justify the investment that his administration had made to improve electricity generation and distribution in the country. Nevertheless, Nigerians had already given their verdict on the issue.

Nigeria today is witnessing perhaps the worst power generation and distribution crisis in many years. To redress this situation, experts in the field of green energy have since lent their views in support of pursuing renewable energy in delivering power and as well as powering even the remotest parts which are without grid infrastructure.

One of such views is succinctly captured in a report, commissioned by IHS Towers and written by a panel of analysts at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) titled, POWER UP: Delivering Renewable Energy in Africa. Nigeria, along with other African countries, has what it takes to successfully harness the benefits of renewable energy. However, renewable energy programmes need committed governments championing the accelerated delivery of renewable energy benefits, the report highlighted.

Africa’s green energy is capable of replicating the success of mobile communications in the early 2000s wherein there was pent-up demand for telecommunications services and that demand was quickly met over a short period of time.

In Nigeria, shortly before the auction of GSM licenses, only 400,000 telephone lines were operational. There was a large pool of consumers but the government-owned Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) could not meet the pent-up demand. With the emergence of mobile telecommunications, which required a more nimble infrastructure outlay as opposed to fixed line operations, the telecommunications industry in the country grew astronomically, exceeding forecasts by industry analysts.

Similarly, renewable energy can alleviate the challenges associated with inadequate or non-existent power supply as we have in many urban and virtually most rural areas many of which are not connected to the electricity grid. The report says that strategies are emerging for rural areas to deliver electricity without heavy and clunky infrastructure as it is in the case of grid electricity. With simple and handy solar photovoltaic consumer products like the popular Pico-Solar units, rural areas can be lit up off grid power generation.

Nigeria has solar energy potential in abundance especially in rural areas. This can be exploited freely in generating alternative power supply in these areas. Also, the cost of Solar Photovoltaic units has fallen by 80% since 2008. The significant public support for renewable energy is also encouraging. Power Africa led by USAID and the African Renewable Energy Initiative that aims to deploy 10GW of renewable energy by 2020, reaching 300GW by 2030, should serve as an impetus to prod governments and other institutions to pursue renewable energy, according to the Power Up report.

The Power Up report suggests four important measures that must be in place to attract increased investment in renewable projects while also ensuring its success. Firstly, government must avoid implementing artificial low tariffs because it would put off investors. To attract infrastructure investment, government must allow power tariffs to reflect the cost of investments made. Subsidies should be targeted at the poor only to protect them and enable them benefit from the programme. This way, private investors will not be deterred from making investments.

Secondly, government’s transparency and harmonization are essential for investors to commit to investments of this nature. Government should endeavour to publish key planning documents, like Integrated Resource Plans, Power Purchasing Agreements, Government Support Agreements and Connection Agreements. Doing this will provide structure, investor certainty and policy signal, which will support not only private sector decision making but also boost their confidence in the operating environment. South Africa’s Renewable Energy Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP) is a case study in this regard which is now being replicated by Uganda and Zambia.

Thirdly, Customs efficiency must be improved upon to reduce costs and improve construction maintenance times by making it easier to move technology and equipment in and out of the country. Lastly, focus on renewable energy strategy and initiatives must be government led and it should be a comprehensive renewable procurement programmes, not one-off investments that are not expansive enough to cater for the energy shortfall in the country.

Mohamad Darwish Co-Founder of IHS, the largest base transceiver stations provider for telecommunications industry in Nigeria believes the country has the raw ingredients for a vibrant renewable energy market. Nigeria has abundant resources further buoyed by falling costs of solar panels, wind turbines, smart innovations in end-user equipment and a committed government and international donors.

Darwish says IHS has witnessed the energy and operational efficiency benefits that come from investing in renewable power solutions, having invested $500 million in new green energy power systems across its business portfolio. This investment, he says, would enable the company become almost diesel-neutral in Zambia in a few years while it also assesses solar farm opportunities in Rwanda that could potentially supply power to the national grid of the country.

Clearly, renewable energy offers a substantial leeway to meeting the energy needs of homes and businesses in Nigeria. The availability and reliability of the natural assets especially solar and wind are positive signals that should be exploited. What Nigeria needs right now is a clear and implementable roadmap for renewable energy development along with robust guarantees that will attract private investors.

Harry Okoruwa