• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Solving corporate electricity security issues in Nigeria: high stakes, higher rewards

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As an energy company with significant operational experience in Nigeria, Wärtsilä is well aware of the key energy issues that keep many Nigerian business executives awake at night. But contrary to popular belief, their main concern isn’t high or volatile energy prices. It is energy security, or rather the lack thereof. Fortunately, this problem is not without a solution.

Energy-intensive businesses throughout Nigeria are in dire need of a stable electricity supply, yet numerous threats undermine their energy security. The country’s power infrastructure is either outdated or underdeveloped, a situation that hampers the effective distribution of energy to businesses. Other challenges complicate things further, such as the risk of power plant equipment failure or fuel supply disruptions. The consequences of these issues are far-reaching, with power availability problems becoming common occurrences in the conduct of business in the country.

The repercussions on businesses are diverse and profound. Interruptions in the power supply translate into downtimes in production and delays in product delivery to the end customer, leading to revenue loss. Companies are also sometimes compelled to resort to diesel generators to maintain operations, an expensive and polluting fix that doesn’t solve the core problem. Another critical aspect is the impact on competitiveness with counterparts who enjoy better access to reliable energy sources. What is more, persistent power issues can deter investors wary of committing resources to ventures in regions where power problems are a real risk.

This is the feedback from the field. These challenges underscore the urgent need for the most exposed businesses to address their power supply issues head-on. It’s a complex task, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Taking matter in their own hands

Understandably, businesses across Nigeria’s main industrial sectors, such as cement, steel, textiles, or food-processing among others, are looking to secure their own power supply. To do this properly, companies can rely only on the type of power generation technologies that guarantee the continuous availability of electricity. This necessity hinges on two critical criteria that the selected power solution must fulfil.

Firstly, the power plant should be capable of delivering electricity around the clock, even under the challenging conditions prevalent in Nigeria. Secondly, the power solution must possess a high degree of resilience. This involves not only the ability to withstand or quickly recover from short-term shocks, but also the flexibility in operations to accommodate such disruptions.

Multi-fuel capability and operational flexibility are key components of this resilience. Power plants designed with multi-fuel technology can switch from one fuel to another, which greatly limits fuel supply risks. Power plants with modular designs such as those based on reciprocating engine technology are also at an advantage. They are composed of a series of independent units and can ensure that operations continue even if one unit fails. This is a crucial step towards enhancing the resilience and redundancy of the power system and an immediate solution to system failure to safeguard continuous operation.

Setting the stage for renewable energy

Last but not least, short-term needs should never hamper long-term sustainability requirements. Selecting a power solution is an important commitment that spans over decades. Looking ahead, the solution of choice must be adaptable to evolving market trends, such as the rapid emergence of intermittent renewable energy sources and the eventual transition to sustainable fuels instead of heavy fuel oil or natural gas to run the power plants.

That’s why reciprocating engine power plants have emerged as a technology of choice for energy-intensive businesses. Not only does it have the ability to be converted to run on green fuels as they become available, but the technology also possesses the inherent operational flexibility to manage the integration of intermittent renewable energies. This system flexibility is crucial to secure the reliability of long-term system operation whilst securing the integration of low-cost renewable energy in the future.

The adaptability to sustainable energy technologies is paramount. It will ensure that businesses can maximise energy security by deploying superior energy solutions that not only meet the needs of today, but also anticipate those of tomorrow.

Wale Yusuff, Nigeria Managing Director, Wärtsilä Energy.