Nigeria must step up climate change efforts with more investments in renewable energy – Chijioke Mama

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COP 22 is holding on African soil in 2016, how significant is this?

It’s significant in several ways that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) Conference of Parties 2016 (COP 22) is now being hosted on African soil; specifically in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. Following the huge success of COP 21 Paris last year, the target of this year’s gathering is to improve on the agreement of November 2015, through actionable steps. But for Africa, it will also bring to fore, some of the major regional achievements in the fight against climate change while highlighting Africa’s precarious exposure to the economic challenges of global warming.

To what extent should Africa be concerned about climate change?

Even though climate change is a global phenomenon, It’s proven that developing countries and poorer communities could be at greater risks to the adverse effects of climate change; including its impact on rural farming and crop yield, as well as, environmental hazards such as flooding.

So in view of Africa’s state of economic development and the level of poverty, I believe African leaders and business communities should be very concerned about climate change and should use a well-crafted, long term and sustainable approach to fight climate change in this region.

Has Africa made much progress in the fight against climate change?

There have been some notable achievements. We have seen many regional efforts, declarations and energy sector reforms designed to drive renewable energy use. Nigeria’s recent declaration to generate about 2000MW of power from renewables by 2020 is one example. This has been backed by the 14 solar power PPA’s signed in summer 2016. In 2015 the African Development Bank (AfDB) launched an initiative the New Deal on Energy for Africa which has a focus on clean and renewable energy.

At the national level we are still seeing commendable efforts. For example, Morocco plans to derive more than 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and has taken tangible steps towards its realization. Djibouti, one of the poorest African countries and who could be at the highest risk of climate change-induced economic hardship has also launched a program to reduce its Green House Gas emission (GHG) by up to 40% by the year 2030. Elsewhere in Africa the SE4All initiative is also making impacts along with its public and private sector partners.

From a Nigerian perspective what are the core expectations from renewables?

The expectations from renewables are quite clear; lower carbon footprints, improved access to energy, energy reliability, stability and affordability. These are some of the core deliverables from renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass. Once Nigeria continues to advance the contribution of renewable energy in its energy mix, we will begin to see the secondary benefits.

I strongly believe that renewables can help Nigeria to take energy to the rural, remote and excluded communities faster than fossil-based and grid power. This is also tied to benefits such as rural financial service delivery, food security, education, security and access to vital information. If Nigeria achieves the 20 percent unconditional reduction in carbon emission by 2030 which is Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), we will see a visible unlocking of economic growth due to the organic impacts of clean energy access and use in a modern world.

So I expect that the government and the private sector will further explore and support renewable energy trends such as off grid/residential solar power opportunities, decentralized renewable-based power generation and distribution, energy efficiency and storage programs.

What are some of the major hurdles limiting renewable energy adoption in Nigeria?

Finance is at the center of the challenges faced by renewable energy initiatives in Nigeria. This is in addition to sub-optimal policies, data and technical challenges. But if the proper financing schemes exist locally for project developers and consumers especially SMEs; then renewable energy footprints in Nigeria will grow faster.

For example, some of the profitable (for the bank) and more convenient (for the consumers) financing models required to accelerate the adoption of clean energy schemes such as; Pay-as-you-go solar and decentralized energy systems are either unknown to Nigerian banks or shunned by many of them. Novel credit schemes for rooftops solar PVs and residential solar appliances are helping financial firms around Africa to drive growth. But renewable energy finance portfolio in many Nigerian banks is either absent or very lean, despite the huge benefits.

If you also consider that the risk of local currency devaluation is a major deterrent for many foreign financiers you will wonder why Nigerian financial institutions are slow to support this sectors. Only very few Nigerian financial institutions are now exploring with us, some strategies for enhancing their renewable energy portfolio for customers. This is very important since finance and financial institutions are a vital key for unlocking renewable energy growth.

What is your opinion on the private sector response to climate change issues in Nigeria?

In my opinion, we haven’t really done well in Nigeria, from a private sector perspective. We still have that traditional over-expectation from government, even when responsibilities clearly fall beyond governments’ purview.

There is a visible indifference or lip service among many private sector power consumers in Nigeria with respect to sustainability in business. As the price of renewables such as solar power continues to fall, we are not seeing much growth in climate change inspired adoptions. Even where the economics is right and favors renewables we still see some bias and preference for fossil energy sources such as diesel-fired generators.

Nigerian banks, telecommunication firms, manufacturing concerns, hotels etc. are all still using dirty fossil sources even where hybrid solar power systems offer improved reliability and lower cost. That’s why EnergyDatar has pioneered one of the most robust renewable energy advisory portfolios that can help organizations plan their sustainability initiatives.

In addition, we have just instituted the first dedicated Renewable Energy Impact (REI) Award for Nigerian companies which will be unveiled in 2017. It will reward and encourage organizations that consider climate change in their operations and those that have small carbon footprints in Nigeria.

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