• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why we need alternative sources of energy

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Akin Yusuf

I parked my car for some time because I was out of  town. However, on my return last Saturday, I needed to use it on Sunday morning to take the family to church, but that was where my problem started. The battery had run down.

Following several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to go for a battery charger to help jumpstart the car. However, in all the four shops I visited, the answer was the same – there was no battery to rent. Reason, they have had no power for upwards of two weeks to charge their batteries.
Of course, we know that several parts of our cities have not had power sometimes up to six months. And as a result, many artisans now while away the time doing nothing. Just think of the man-hours wasted on a daily basis as a result of this. At the same time, the problem has led to other challenges. It has, for instance, affected the availability of water in our cities given that a lot of people depend on public power supply to pump water from boreholes. Such people now rely on other sources that are in most cases unhygienic. This problem has gone on for some time and on a realistic basis, with no solution in sight.
The simple reason why we are in this mess is that Nigeria depends almost completely on oil and gas for its power supply. This is used not only to power the country’s thermal stations but also the numerous generators that have become a permanent feature of our lives. And because this source has become irregular, essentially due to the problem in the Niger Delta, Nigeria has equally become susceptible in terms of power generation. But that is not even my worry.
My real worry stems from the fact that in spite of this ugly situation, government has consistently promised Nigerians that it would deliver at least 6, 000 megawatts of electricity before the end of 2009 (although halfway into the year, we are possibly doing less than 2000 megawatts).

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Aside from this, there is also a greater challenge given that in order to actualise Vision 20:2020, which Nigeria has willingly adopted, the country is expected to generate at least 60, 000 megawatts of electricity by 2020 to power its businesses.
Of course, it is no longer news that several of the country’s big businesses have already migrated to neighbouring countries, even as cost of doing business has risen by at least 30 percent owing to the power problem alone. It is because of these reasons and more that I strongly believe the more sustainable solution is by investing in alternative sources of energy outside oil and gas.
Even then, we equally have to do this given that the world is seriously looking for alternative energy sources, as fossil fuels have been accused of depleting the environment. Similarly, many have argued that with the global supply of coal, natural gas and oil becoming depleted and nuclear power considered as a more risky alternative, seeking renewable energy sources seems to be a more practicable solution. This further explains why it has become increasingly attractive to several countries including America, Canada, India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, UAE and Brazil.
Nigeria must join this league immediately because America, which at the moment is the country’s biggest oil importer, is seriously seeking alternatives. In fact, President Barrack Obama, since he assumed office, has never hidden his desire to explore alternative sources of energy, especially as a way to reduce the sufferings of Americans. In a speech delivered at the last Earth Day in April, he said inter alia: “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy – the choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.”
And to match word with action, he has appropriated $3.6 trillion for the next fiscal year, translating to $15 billion each year for 10 years to develop clean energy including wind power, solar power, geothermal energy and clean coal energy. Imagine what will happen to Nigeria if America stops buying its oil!
Why I am especially worried is given the prolonged nature of the Niger Delta crisis (which at the moment seems to be escalating) and the fact that whatever other alternatives we seek will still require some time to materialize, considering the amount of time required to get the plants built and the unusual slow pace of activities here.
Luckily, Nigeria’s potentials in these sources are not in doubt. We are in a position to generate power from bio-fuels, solar, wind, water and waste. In fact, while we have over the years ignored these sources; our undue dependence on fossil fuels has also helped to heat up the earth’s stratosphere to such an extent that we now witness an unreasonable discomfort with average weather conditions.
This is, therefore, the time to act. Government should take the lead by prompting the National Assembly to amend any obnoxious laws that restrict participation in this sector. Next, while participating directly with a view to showing demonstrable examples, government should also promote alternative energy sources using incentives.
In fact, we should aim to localise energy generation by encouraging States, institutions and agencies willing to do so. This is what China, India and other emerging economies are doing. Moreover, the energy we have today is no doubt dirty, insecure and expensive, hence the need to seek alternatives that are clean, cheaper and competitive. Let us begin the process immediately.