Re­new­able en­ergy as the fu­ture

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NIGE­RIA IS THE SIXLARGEST oil­pro­duc­ing na­tion in the world, but it also has abun­dant re­new­able en­ergy re­sources in the form of wind, hy­dro, and tidal power. Nev­er­the­less, the coun­try has se­ri­ous en­ergy de­fi­cien­cies which are likely to in­crease ....

NIGE­RIA IS THE SIXLARGEST oil-pro­duc­ing na­tion in the world, but it also has abun­dant re­new­able en­ergy re­sources in the form of wind, hy­dro, and tidal power. Nev­er­the­less, the coun­try has se­ri­ous en­ergy de­fi­cien­cies which are likely to in­crease as the pop­u­la­tion grows.

Although data from the En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion shows that Nige­ria has im­proved its en­ergy gen­er­a­tion in re­cent years, the coun­try still lags be­hind peer economies such as Brazil, In­dia, and South Africa in meet­ing cur­rent en­ergy needs, much less build­ing for fu­ture growth.

“Nige­ria is a coun­try wait­ing to hap­pen,” says Udemgba Sa­muel On­uoha, busi­ness hub man­ager at Ibadan Elec­tric­ity Dis­tri­bu­tion Com­pany, the main elec­tric­ity provider in Ibadan, Nige­ria’s third-largest city. “Only by meet­ing the en­ergy needs of the peo­ple can the eco­nomic and de­vel­op­men­tal needs of the coun­try be ful­filled.

Nige­ria cur­rently has the ca­pa­bil­ity within ex­ist­ing power plants to gen­er­ate 12,522 MW of elec­tric­ity daily but most days is only able to gen­er­ate around 4,000 MW due to a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, in­clud­ing an in­ef­fi­cient trans­mis­sion net­work, weak govern­ment pol­icy, and in­ad­e­quate en­ergy re­forms.

In­vest­ing in re­new­ables

In On­uoha’s opin­ion, it is crit­i­cal that Nige­ria taps into its high po­ten­tial for re­new­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion to sat­isfy the coun­try’s needs.

“In Nige­ria, pe­tro­leum ac­counts for 80% of the en­ergy sup­ply, with one of the low­est per-capita en­ergy con­sump­tion rates in the world and a fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion,” On­uoha says.

Wale Yusuff, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Wärt­silä Nige­ria, shares this perspectiv­e with On­uoha.

“Nige­ria will only achieve its tar­get of gen­er­at­ing 11,000 MW daily by 2023 if the govern­ment in­vests in re­new­able en­ergy,” Yusuff says.

Ac­cord­ing to Yusuff, a 30% share of re­new­able en­ergy, as well as a siz­able share of ther­mal base power as en­vi­sioned in the Nige­ria Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Roadmap, is a ro­bust and ap­pro­pri­ate mix for the coun­try at this point.

He em­pha­sises that Nige­ria has abun­dant nat­u­ral gas re­sources that have yet to be fully tapped and sug­gests the de­vel­op­ment of a large fleet of medium-size gas-to-power plants as a way for­ward.

Ul­ti­mately, Yusuff says, “the so­lu­tion is to use util­i­tyscale so­lar power plants in­te­grated with en­gine power plants and en­ergy stor­age.”

Co­op­er­a­tion to find solutions

On­uoha says that the chal­lenge of de­vel­op­ing Nige­ria’s vast, un­tapped en­ergy sources re­quires both public and pri­vate ac­tion. He says the govern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a busi­ness-friendly en­vi­ron­ment through po­lices and laws to at­tract in­vestors to the sec­tor while also part­ner­ing with such in­vestors, if need be, to set up tar­geted en­ergy de­vel­op­ment projects.

The size of the gap be­tween en­ergy pro­duc­tion and de­mand is a crit­i­cal in­di­ca­tor of the vast po­ten­tial and money that can be made from this sec­tor.

The fail­ure of the coun­try to ad­e­quately tackle its en­ergy chal­lenges has led to a thriv­ing black mar­ket in en­ergy gen­er­a­tion. Nige­ria is the world’s largest black mar­ket for elec­tric gen­er­a­tors with over one hun­dred mil­lion gen­er­a­tors in pri­vate hands. Many Nige­ri­ans pay for fuel to run pri­vate gen­er­a­tors as well as high elec­tric bills to lo­cal util­ity com­pa­nies.

In ad­di­tion to en­cour­ag­ing cap­i­tal flight, the pur­chase of these gen­er­a­tors also pro­motes the use of crude oil at a time when the coun­try should be de­vel­op­ing its re­new­able sec­tor. But the govern­ment will have to act to make re­new­ables a part of fill­ing that gap. In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing a favourable reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment, the govern­ment should as a matter of pol­icy also sub­stan­tially build up its lo­cal tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity from its in­ter­na­tional part­ner­ships with like-minded busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Wärt­silä of­fers a way for­ward, ac­cord­ing to Yusuff. He notes the pro­pos­als made in a re­cent white pa­per show­ing the way to­wards a 100% re­new­able fu­ture. The pa­per em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of in­cor­po­rat­ing a cred­i­ble re­new­able baseload strat­egy in or­der to even­tu­ally reach a fully green en­ergy mix.

Yusuff pointed out that any se­ri­ous, long-term en­ergy strat­egy must em­brace a num­ber of key trends, in­clud­ing the rapidly in­creas­ing pen­e­tra­tion of re­new­ables, de­cen­tral­iz­ing en­ergy gen­er­a­tion, in­creas­ing the role of flex­i­ble power plants that in­cor­po­rate gas and emerg­ing stor­age tech­nol­ogy, along with the lat­est in data and digi­ti­sa­tion.

If Nige­ria can man­age to cre­ate an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able and thriv­ing re­new­able in­dus­try, the in­vest­ment will ben­e­fit more than just the en­ergy sec­tor. The avail­abil­ity of re­li­able elec­tric­ity has the po­ten­tial to trans­form the coun­try’s econ­omy and im­prove the lives of mil­lions by en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship and small busi­ness growth. These new busi­nesses will pro­duce rev­enue that the govern­ment, in turn, can in­vest back into main­tain­ing and up­grad­ing the en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture.

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