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Renewable energy can contribute to stable electricity in Nigeria – Obaisi

RERE OBAISI, CEO of Reohob Nigeria, a renewable and security systems company that provides power for homes and offices using solar, in this interview with DANIEL OBI, discusses the vision to take the market from generators, reduce carbon emissions and protect the Earth. Excerpts:

Nigeria is an exporter of petroleum and has a vast deposit of natural gas, but still suffers erratic power supply, what is the problem?

It is pathetic and I have always blamed erratic power supply on management and lack of structure. I believe that with due structures in place and management of resources, electricity is supposed to go round because we have abundant resources. The problem is basically poor management.

If there is a structure that ensures adequate distribution of power, then there will be a balance. In Nigeria, there are some places that have good power supply while other areas are not enjoying it at all. The problem with Nigeria, which is not only in erratic power supply but general, is lack of structure and management of resources. We need to implore our leaders to start re-evaluating our structures and put people in place that are experts in good management. Nigeria has the capacity and resources to generate and distribute enough power to the citizens but the challenge is management and structure. Another challenge is that Nigeria is not fully exploring other options in power supply. We talk about fuel and natural resources, but the abundance of Sun in sub-Saharan Africa is not being exploited enough. I support renewable energy as a complement method of power supply. I believe that renewable energy can be a support system to ensure that power is stable.

Where is Nigeria in the journey to adoption of renewable energy as a complement to conventional power supply?

The journey for Nigeria is still long but the good thing about it is that we have an idea of it. I have seen initiatives of government’s investments to install solar energy especially in rural areas. Nigeria is beginning to accept it but we need to accept it at a faster pace for us to meet up with the developed world. The switching from regular power supply method to renewable energy has to be a quick one because of the global warming. Countries in the developed world are giving themselves time-frame to completely reduce carbon emissions to zero percent. The question is, is Nigeria considering this and planning to join the vision of saving the Earth?

What do you think Nigeria should be doing now to achieve some level of reductions in carbon emissions?

First, it is about commitment. I believe that if the Nigerian system is committed to this agenda, which is one of the major agenda of UN, then a structure and management can be put in place to determine realistically how long it will take Nigeria to get to a certain level and commit to that agenda. Second, we need to understand the stage we are in now and be realistic about it, then build a structure and commit to that structure. We can equally copy the Western world to have 10-20 years agenda to reduce our carbon emissions by 50 percent.

In terms of power supply in Nigeria, what percentage does renewable energy contribute vis-a-vis conventional energy?

Conventional energy supply is 90 percent while renewable energy is 10 percent. However, Nigeria has the capacity, the brains, resources, the Sun to grow the percentage of renewable energy to 40 percent in next few years.

Could poor funding be a hindrance to achieving renewable energy and reduction in carbon emissions?

Commitment is the beginning and a major step to any journey. If there is a structure and good management, they can work out how funds can come. For instance, when something happens, individual struggles to get funds towards that cause. Even if Nigeria has not really set aside some funds to pursue carbon emission reductions, but with the right structure and management in place, Nigeria will be able to gather the necessary funds intended for the agenda. Nigeria can equally create a budget yearly for renewable energy and for cutting down carbon emissions and commit to it.

Read also: Labour urges FG to drop plan to hike electricity, petrol prices

What informed the establishment of Reohob Nigeria and what role is it playing in the renewable energy space?

Development of my interest in renewable energy was informed to make life better. Our motto is ‘Live Better’ because we believe that when problem of erratic power supply is removed from individual’s life, productivity skyrockets. Many businesses in Nigeria are making profits but most of the profit is going back into powering their system against companies in Europe. There is also the health factor resulting from smoke pollution and generator fumes. Thirdly, our vision is in synchronisation with the UN agenda to reduce carbon emissions. While some players are taking the solution from top, we at Reohob decided to take it from the grassroots. We make sure that the inverter and solar systems are installed at affordable rates for the intending customer. We are collaborating with other organisations to allow paying in instalments.

Could you compare the cost of providing energy to a company through renewable or conventional energy?

It will be difficult and this depends on the energy consumption of that company. However most companies do not consider the long-term effects of how they generate power. For instance, when you buy a generator, you need to buy fuel to power it and service the generator. But the solar system is more of a one-off cost. Solar panel on the average has a 25- year life span. This means if you buy a good grade of solar panel, you will not replace it in the next 25 years.

Can you imagine how much you would spend on fuel in 25 years? If a solar system to power your house costs N1m and a generator costs N600,000. You will think N600,000 is good but in the long run, you will spend more on fuel. The advantage of solar system super cedes power supply from generator. On the other hand, if the grid gets exceptionally expensive, then solar panel is better.

Why are Nigerians paying so much for energy from conventional power supply?

There are stories that most of the power generated from the grid gets lost in transit, and the consumer still pays for the cost of generation. Again, I cannot really explain the excessive increase in price of power from the grid. But I believe that there is mismanagement of power supply.

How does government support players in renewable energy to provide the needed services that will complement power supply?

First advice is that there should be a system where capable Nigerians can borrow funds for acquisition of renewable energy for their homes or offices. A committee that has the right management and structure can be set up for this purpose. But the fund can be given directly to Installation Companies but the beneficiary pays over time. This is a value, when well implemented, can yield positive result to the economy. It can be uninstalled if the beneficiary is not meeting up the payment.

The second idea is that Nigerian government can get the manufacturers of solar panels to Nigeria. A lot goes into travelling overseas to purchase the equipment, exchange rate, importing them and paying for import duty. For instance, due to the exchange rate, the cost of providing the same service has doubled. We can cut off this time and money by bringing the manufacturers to Nigeria. Government must back the manufacturers for them to invest. Fortunately, things used in manufacturing batteries are found in Congo in Africa. We lack processing system to process raw materials into finished products.

Reohob Nigeria has a Rural Electrification initiative, what is it about?

We believe that without catering for the people that cannot afford it, the vision of Reohob will not be justified. As at now, renewable energy is not completely affordable by everybody. Rural initiative is geared at getting some form of grants from local and international bodies to provide solar systems for rural areas. We pick areas that completely lack power supply and ensure they have power supply. We also have Reohob engineering training programme geared at training individuals on how to install solar systems. This is job creation opportunity for them.

After 9 years of operation, where do you see Reohob in the next few years?

Reohob is going to experience a massive growth in the next few years and this is because of our internal vision. We believe that to scale, we need some investment. If we get more investors into Reohob, we will cater for more people. We are looking at not only importing these products from China, US, Australia but manufacture them in Nigeria and export them.

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