• Sunday, June 23, 2024
businessday logo


Ifeoma Malo has just one goal: Ending energy poverty

Ifeoma Malo has just one goal: Ending energy poverty

On leaving government to join the international donor sector, focused her work on technically assisting the government and private sector to address bottlenecks in the energy sector and advance energy access in Nigeria. Currently, as the CEO of Clean Tech Hub and the Energy Innovation Center in Abuja, she is proactively addressing the need for research, development, demonstration, and incubation of clean technologies to increase energy access and improve climate resilience.

Tell us about projects that have left you feeling incredibly proud Two projects completely stand out. Firstly, the Enterprise Development Programme that launched on the back of our Technology Meets Renewable initiative. This project focuses on helping to incubate early-stage companies in the clean renewable energy space that will be driving products and services across the country. We had 100 applications for our hackathon where we selected the first three teams. For the 2nd cohort, which was a pitch contest, we had almost 150 applicants and have narrowed it down to 18 teams. Only eight teams will make the final cut and will be funded by our partners, All On.

Another programme that I’m excited about is the BUDGIT for gender and MSME programmes – where women-owned and led MSMEs and women agriculture smallholder farmers become critical stakeholders in the quick adoption of clean energy technologies to drive and grow their businesses. This project builds off our local solutions lab projects where we engaged in design thinking to work with identified communities to create more cost-effective energy solutions and increase the rate of adoption of clean technology. The result will see thousands becoming adopters of clean technology to grow their businesses.

The uptake of clean technology is driving the energy revolution. How do you foresee this changing the energy landscape?

Through my engagements, it is evident that people and communities realise that they don’t have to wait for electricity from the grid and that renewable energy is a viable option to meet their energy needs. We see how ideas and initiatives on big and small solar technologies – and projects around wind, biomass, and mini-hydro – are gaining traction as pathways to electrification.

To achieve the goal of universal energy access in a sustainable way (SDG7), coupled with the need to reduce carbon emissions, many countries around the world are adopting larger renewable energy technologies.

READ ALSO: ‘Nigeria’s spend on subsidy can build 20,000km of roads, 600,000 houses’

Some of the achievements and efforts include the 310MW Lake Turkana wind power project launched by the Kenyan government in March 2019; the Grand Inga project on the Congo River with a projected capacity for 40GW of hydro generating capacity (the largest hydro project worldwide); the Great Millennium Renaissance Dam currently under construction with the capability of adding a further 6GW to the Ethiopian national grid; the Nigerian target of 13GW of off-grid solar power-driven largely through the Rural Electrification Agency’s mini-grid revolution; Ghana leading in the adoption of solar dryers to improve its agricultural produce at Silwood Farm.

These achievements and efforts show the optimism that the adoption of renewable energy on a large scale, is capable of changing the energy landscape in the future. The energy landscape is bound to witness a more diverse energy mix and larger adoption of clean energy sources. With the population increasing across regions and communities needing electricity to drive productivity, nations are prioritising energy access to boost local economies and foster national development.

The recent synergy between key sector players – national governments, sub-national governments, private developers, impact investors, advocacy groups, energy think-tanks, and communities – has yielded innovative ways to advance energy access and efficiency. The current inadequacies of existing grids have also created an avenue for efficient decentralised alternatives.

The Nigerian Government, through its 30:30:30 Agenda, has the vision to achieve 30,000MW by the year 2030, with at least 30% from renewable energy sources. This strategy has resulted in private-public partnerships (PPPS), deploying various sustainable energy solutions across the country. Nigeria has also witnessed a growth in the number of renewable energy enterprises that are operating profitable business models, with many of them reaching last-mile communities. As the DRE sector continues to grow, clean energy solutions will prove to be viable for the energy market: lighting communities, growing business, and creating jobs around the globe.

What is on your wish list for the electricity supply industry in this new decade?

I have a ‘small’ wish list, so here goes…

• In the new decade, there should be an increase in the power generation capacity of the industry across the board. Africa needs to be industrialised, and we can only achieve this if the generation output meets the needs of production.

• That there will be more renewables in the energy mix to reduce the current global energy mix dominated by fossil fuel by 80%. I believe this can be done through several renewable energy options. The increasing adoption of solar and mini-grids across the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, points to a growing awareness of the place of renewables in bridging energy access gaps and mitigating climate change emissions.

• That there be an elimination of VAT and import duty exemptions on solar and other renewable energy products to crash prices and make them more affordable to end-users.

• There should be an increase in energy access distribution into the last-mile communities through solar and mini-grid projects.

• There should be deliberate longterm investments into the power sector, and governments should make the sector more attractive to investors by de-risking the sector and providing bold incentives.

• There should be more participation of the private sector and civil society organisations in energy policy formulations.

There is a need to improve on the existing power infrastructures, particularly in the transmission and distribution sub-sectors in Nigeria. Some of the issues around metering, collections, and distribution are issues that should not be beyond resolution for us as a country and as an industry in this new decade.

What is your message for young women who are starting out on their careers in the power and energy industry?

They must be ready to work twice as hard and twice as long. This is still relatively a male-dominated sector even though it is changing in the renewable energy field. However, there is still a long way to go to reach gender parity in terms of size, opportunities, or even pay scale. So young women must be deliberate with the choices they make when they enter the sector. They must be innovative, proactive, and resilient and must leverage on any opportunity to grow that comes their way.

The energy sector is a place where young female leaders can thrive and even become change agents. Lastly, as they go along their career path, they need to leave egos at the door and put in hard work as nothing will be handed to them easily just because they are women. After all, with hard work comes the recognition.

Congratulation on your Power Industry Leader of the Year award! What does this mean for you and where to from here?

First of all, being nominated alongside amazing people in the same category, who are frankly doing incredible work, was already a huge win for me. To then hear that I was selected as the winner in that category was a major surprise. I felt honoured, humbled, and happy to have been selected.

I am glad that it mirrors the decades of hard work I have put into my profession. It’s an encouragement to keep striving and to stay disciplined in trying to make an impact and to end the energy poverty I see all across the continent. There is a saying that goes “the reward for good is more work” so I do not intend to quit or relax the reins anytime soon. There is a lot more work to be done to achieve universal energy access and rural electrification across Africa.

Final words to stakeholders on the role they must play to facilitate progress in the industry?

Power sector planning decisions are complex. They cannot be solved by a single government agency, institution, or interest group. Even if they could be, failing to involve all affected parties in project planning will undoubtedly lead to a less successful project. Almost any power sector project will benefit from greater communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. The success of the industry depends on active stakeholder engagement and the flow of information between stakeholders and decisionmakers.

Significant involvement of stakeholders in power sector planning activities across the value chain will drive the best possible outcome. From government to investors, to developers, and civil society: that it is time we all understood that our communities would thrive if they were electrified. Our businesses and bottom lines would look better and the overall growth and development of Africa, of Nigeria, rests on designing and collectively defining an industry where everyone is playing a part to move things forward.

…Culled from ESI Africa