Peter Zhang is the general manager of Beebeejump International Limited. In this interview with journalists in Lagos, he spoke on the benefits of transitioning to renewables, the impacts of subsidy removal on petrol, as well as the cost-effectiveness of upscaling renewable energy in Nigeria. Abubakar Ibrahim, who was there, brings the excerpts.
Kindly give us an insight into your role and your experience in the sector?
As a worker in the renewable energy industry, I have worked in the solar industry for more than 10 years and have witnessed the development of the solar industry and the explosive growth of the renewable energy storage market.
However, the first thing that needs to be addressed in Africa is the ability to provide after-sales support. There is a rigid demand for renewable energy in Africa. If the developed regions demand the pursuit of profit and environmental protection, then solving the electricity shortage is the first thing to do in Africa.
In Africa, the renewable energy industry has only just entered its infancy, and has a serious lack of professional and technical personnel, so it’s very important for development in Africa to have perfect technical training and after-sales service.
What challenges is your company seeking to solve?
Beebeejump is a high-tech enterprise integrating research and development, production, sales, and service of new energy storage. We seek to provide millions of quality and affordable products in Nigeria and Africa at large to solve the problem of unstable power supply through the solar power generation of electricity.
To achieve this, we introduced an optional payment system for our products: PAYGO, i.e., installment payment. With this payment mode, due to the impact of covid-19 increased defaults in repayment caused by low cash flow, this has been a huge challenge for us, but we still focus on the application scenarios of household energy storage, industrial energy storage, and commercial energy storage. With our vision, we ensure that all can enjoy an easy life with electricity.
What is the company’s market (domestic and international), and what are you doing to meet the market shareneeds?
We focus on the main market in Nigeria, and we also cooperate with Nigerian companies through our distributorship scheme and gradually hand over the market to local companies.
Away from Nigeria, we have started to cooperate with other companies in Africa. We support and empower local companies by providing them with the technique and after-sales support; All Beebeejump products are certified by LG, IEC, CE, ROHS, UL, UN38.3, etc., and those standards are in line with the technical and safety standards for each country.
How would you rate the acceptance of your company’s services?
Over the years, because our solar products are available on PAYGO, and it is on record that we are the first solar company in Nigeria to initiate this successfully, we have become the number one choice among other solar companies when it comes to the production of solar home systems.
This made it easy for people to buy our products and be able to pay in installments. For example, our S1 system at the time was available on a 3-year plan, where people could pay as little as 10-20 percent of the full payment, and spread the remaining payment for 3 years. With this we have put a lot of Nigerians in charge of their electricity bill and usage; hence, they don’t need to rely on the national grid.
Looking at the global increase in acceptance of renewable energy, what contribution do you think it will have in the near future in Nigeria?
Regular electricity contributes to the socio-economic development of any country. In countries where a regular supply of electricity is not a challenge, businesses, both local and foreign, would want to invest their money in such an economy. The impact of stable electricity cannot be overemphasized.
Yemi Osinbajo, former vice president of Nigeria, on February 11, 2021, while chairing a meeting in Abuja said the Country is looking at investing in green energy to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2030. This again is only possible, when we consider solar electricity as a priority and not just a backup plan for the unreliable national grid.
Nigeria is starting in 2020 through a federal government initiative on the installation of 5 million solar products in Nigeria, which will solve the employment of 250,000 people; Nigeria is rich in natural resources, with sunshine hours reaching 2,600 hours per year in some areas, which is ideal for the development of the solar industry; over 80 million people can solve their electricity problems through decentralized solar off-grid systems;
Nigeria’s solar industry is expected to boost GDP by 1 percent by 2030 as demand continues to grow; the solar market will reach a size of $10 billion; thus adding millions of jobs;
With the subsidy removed, what’s your projection for Renewable energy acceptance and add option in Nigeria?
The removal of subsidy in and of itself is a welcome development, both as a nation and as a part of the solar industry in Nigeria. Before May 29th, taking Lagos as a case study, fuel used to sell for N185 per litre, which means for someone in Lagos that wants to power his/her smallest generator with 5 litres of fuel such a person will be spending, N925 per day, N6,475 per week, N25,900 per month, and N310,800 per year to generate his own electricity. Originally, this was considered high.
Now, with the removal of subsidy from fuel, fuel is now sold at N488 per litre in some areas of Lagos and as high as N540 in some other states in Nigeria. For someone who wants to fuel his/her small generator with five litres of fuel, such a person will be spending N2,440 per day, N17,080 per week, N68,320 per month, and N819,840 per year.
This is outrageous, and it is not a wise decision to continue with it. Hence, instead of using that huge amount of money to fuel your generator, people will rather make the wise decision to buy a solar system that you will get for a lesser amount. Among renewable energy sources, solar power generation can solve the problem of electricity at a very small investment cost.
Ultimately, the removal of fuel subsidy will drive more Nigerians to embrace the opportunities that the renewable energy industry offers. The choice of solar off-grid power products will become the first choice for changing electricity in Nigeria, and the solar industry in Nigeria will also grow rapidly.
What policies do you think the government can introduce to help your business deliver more value?
The government for renewable energy enterprises can consider reducing import tariffs, so as to reduce the purchase cost of end-users. We also recommend that the Government issue a policy of subsidies for customer installation, which would give a strong impetus to the population to install and spontaneously address their electricity needs.
Renewable energy enterprises should be given preferential loans with lower interest rates to help them grow bigger and stronger; only by increasing the scale can unit costs be reduced.
What are the biggest challenges facing clean energy development in the country?
The local market for renewable energy in Nigeria has been developing for more than a decade but has not been able to form a scale: firstly, because of the high cost of installation; secondly, because of the lack of supporting after-sales service, many products can not be used once they are sold with quality problems, and no manufacturer can be found to solve the problem; thirdly, because the quality of products in the market varies, and the price of poor quality is low; this has led to the bad money driving out the good.
Another is the challenge of acceptability, most people believe that solar products especially batteries don’t last long, forgetting that there are different types of batteries – Tubular, lead acid, AGM, Gel, lithium-ion batteries. Of all these batteries, lithium-ion batteries are the best in the market and they have a longer lifespan compared to other batteries.
Although, in our capacity as a company we are trying to remove this erroneous belief in the mind of people through education and enlightenment so that people can go for good batteries and not just any solar battery.
What would you recommend be improved in Nigeria’s power sector?
The power sector, as an important sector in the country’s industrial development, could consider a combination of renewable energy (solar, hydro, etc.) and petrochemical power generation. Nigeria is blessed with intense sunlight and water surrounding it. These two natural elements can be converted into producing affordable and stable electricity for her populace, and we are also blessed with crude oil, gas is a bile product of crude oil. Instead of wasting it, there are technologies that help in the conversion of gases to electricity for home and business use.
There are already good examples to refer to in China; the power company is gradually becoming a service-oriented institution from power generation, and grid construction to sales of electricity; staggered peaks on the grid, peak deployment, etc. to ensure industrial and residential electricity consumption.