A so­lu­tion to Nige­ria’s wor­ry­ing en­ergy sit­u­a­tion?

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In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Tran­si­tion Con­sul­tant, Olivier Drücke adopts Ger­many’s ‘the whole is big­ger than the sum of its parts’ ethos to en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tive en­ergy so­lu­tions in Nige­ria - Africa’s most pop­u­lated, but one of its least ef­fi­cient coun­tries

By Olivier Drücke, Project Di­rec­tor, “Let’s make so­lar work” for SOLAR23 GmbH and In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Tran­si­tion Con­sul­tant

ost of Nige­ria’s in­dus­try and crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­tures in both ur­ban and re­mote ar­eas suf­fer from un­re­li­able grid power sup­ply and poor power qual­ity. To pro­vide some au­ton­omy from the in­sta­bil­i­ties of the grid, diesel gen­er­a­tors are widely used, which is an ex­pen­sive and un­sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to pro­vide elec­tric­ity. Mean­while, the ero­sion of in­ter­na­tional oil prices since 2014 has ac­cel­er­ated the do­mes­tic en­ergy cri­sis in Nige­ria, as the Govern­ment has been forced to cut back on fos­sil fuel sub­si­dies for its own econ­omy and pop­u­la­tion. This has led to soar­ing prices of fos­sil fu­els in the coun­try, re­sult­ing in greatly in­creased costs for all power con­sumers with their own gen­er­a­tors; sub­se­quently re­duc­ing op­er­at­ing times of diesel gen­er­a­tors and ul­ti­mately re­duc­ing power avail­abil­ity.

Al­though fos­sil fuel-based power gen­er­a­tors are widely used, they are un­sus­tain­able in many ways. Be­side dras­ti­cally in­creas­ing op­er­a­tion costs that have be­come un­fore­see­able, they are also loud and emit heavy fumes, re­sult­ing in very neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal and health im­pacts. Fur­ther­more, diesel gen­er­a­tors are reg­u­larly over­sized by as much as 50 per­cent, of­ten re­sult­ing in highly in­ef­fi­cient com­bus­tion pro­cesses.

This costs a lot more money spent on power gen­er­a­tion than nec­es­sary or orig­i­nally planned.

Fur­ther dis­ad­van­tages in­clude over­spends on ini­tial in­vest­ments and re­place­ment in­vest­ments, avoid­able fuel ex­pen­di­tures, down­times, main­te­nance per­son­nel and spare parts. The costly diesel-based power sys­tem is in fact par­a­sitis­ing Nige­ria’s econ­omy, hin­der­ing its ac­tors to build the fu­ture on solid, af­ford­able and thus sus­tain­able fun­da­ments.

Hostages of failed en­ergy poli­cies

In sum­mary, the over­all en­ergy sit­u­a­tion in Nige­ria is look­ing shock­ingly grim to the coun­try’s many in­dus­tri­ous com­mon peo­ple who are work­ing hard every day to feed their fam­i­lies. The ob­vi­ous power cri­sis has rightly been qual­i­fied as a state of emer­gency by many lead­ing civil so­ci­ety fig­ures be­cause it hin­ders the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion to un­lock and de­velop Nige­ria’s tre­men­dous eco­nomic po­ten­tial that could so much help mod­ernise the wider African con­ti­nent.

As a re­sult, the de­mand for al­ter­na­tive power sup­ply tech­nolo­gies which do not rely on ex­pen­sive fos­sil fu­els as well as so­lu­tions to save power, have in­creased tremen­dously lately, es­pe­cially among com­mer­cial users. So­lar en­ergy, and in par­tic­u­lar, pho­to­voltaics (PV) is a great op­tion to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity on-site by har­ness­ing the abun­dantly avail­able so­lar re­source.

So­lar com­pet­i­tive­ness just ar­rived in Nige­ria

In re­cent years, us­ing so­lar en­ergy has be­come cheaper than run­ning diesel gen­er­a­tors, even in Nige­ria. Soar­ing fos­sil fuel prices have in­deed re­sulted in a si­lent rev­o­lu­tion where so­lar power has reached price par­ity with gen­er­a­tor-based power gen­er­a­tion in a grow­ing num­ber of ge­ogra­phies. Sur­pris­ingly, most Nige­ri­ans do not know yet about this ma­jor shift and con­se­quently are not fully aware of the spe­cific new com­pet­i­tive­ness of so­lar power. To ad­dress this knowl­edge gap, Let’s make so­lar work just launched the new on­line “PV-Cal­cu­la­tor” on its web­site, www.lets­makeso­lar­work. com. The tool com­pares costs of so­lar power with the cur­rently ex­ist­ing diesel gen­er­a­tion costs for a planned PV project and gen­er­ates an in­di­vid­ual eco­nomic ap­prox­i­ma­tion for the con­sid­ered so­lar in­vest­ment.

This shift in com­pet­i­tive­ness is good news for power con­sumers, es­pe­cially for mid-sized power users such as com­pa­nies and so­cial fa­cil­i­ties. It cre­ates a tre­men­dous mar­ket po­ten­tial that will change the par­a­digm of how power is gen­er­ated and used in Nige­ria. So­lar PV will ac­count for most of the ex­pected growth of re­new­ables in the fu­ture, in Nige­ria, in Africa and

‘Let’s make so­lar work’ is an ini­tia­tive of the com­pa­nies SOLAR23, OneShore En­ergy, So­lar­mate En­gi­neer­ing and eclareon. It is co­funded by the Ger­man Fed­eral Min­istry for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment un­der the Devel­oPPP pro­gramme.

world­wide. This was also con­firmed by re­spon­dents from a sur­vey car­ried out in Nige­ria by the NESP (Nige­rian En­ergy Sup­port Pro­gramme).

A sur­vey among mid-sized power users

Re­cent vis­its to var­i­ous mid-sized com­pa­nies in La­gos by part­ners of the “Let’s make so­lar work” ini­tia­tive clearly con­firmed their need for al­ter­na­tives to diesel-based power gen­er­a­tion be­cause soar­ing en­ergy costs are their most acute prob­lem.

“We must fix this is­sue now,” said the own­ers of Rite Foods, and they were not alone. On their per­fectly

man­aged man­u­fac­tur­ing site close to La­gos, Rite Foods is op­er­at­ing a diesel gen­er­a­tor ca­pac­ity of 15 MW. Two al­ter­na­tives to cut en­ergy costs are within reach: con­nect­ing to an an­nounced pipe­line bring­ing nat­u­ral gas on-site; or erect­ing so­lar power plants on the large man­u­fac­tur­ing halls’ roofs and the fac­tory premises.

A sur­vey car­ried out by the “Let’s make so­lar work” ini­tia­tive among mid-sized power con­sumers such as SMEs and so­cial fa­cil­i­ties con­firmed that the ac­tors have to rely on diesel-gen­er­ated power more than 75 per­cent of the time; the rest be­ing pro­vided by an un­sta­ble grid with long sup­ply in­ter­rup­tions on a daily ba­sis, even in mega cities such as La­gos. Half of the re­spon­dents stated that the costs of en­ergy ac­count for more than 35 per­cent of their over­all op­er­at­ing ex­penses which is huge com­pared to Eu­ro­pean in­dus­tries where the fig­ure is around five per­cent on av­er­age. Con­se­quently, all in­ter­viewed ac­tors with­out ex­cep­tion are very much in­ter­ested in cut­ting their en­ergy costs by what­ever means. Al­most 40 per­cent of sur­veyed ac­tors con­sider now in­vest­ing in gas-fired gen­er­a­tors, while 34 per­cent are plan­ning to in­vest in so­lar power sys­tems, and only 17 per­cent in grid con­nec­tions or ex­ten­sions.

So­lar PV’s im­age

The in­tro­duc­tion of so­lar power in Nige­ria stands at its very be­gin­ning. So­lar sys­tems that have been in­stalled so far are fre­quently gen­er­at­ing counter-ref­er­ences be­cause of qual­ity is­sues tied to poor en­gi­neer­ing, low price and qual­ity equip­ment, faulty in­stal­la­tion, er­ro­neous us­age of bat­ter­ies, as well as weak main­te­nance pro­ce­dures and prac­tices. This has con­se­quently con­trib­uted to spoil­ing the im­age of so­lar power, thus ham­per­ing its ac­cep­tance and broader mar­ket in­tro­duc­tion. There­fore, the sup­ply side still lacks de­ci­sive sell­ing ar­gu­ments and it can of­ten be heard in Nige­ria that “so­lar doesn’t work”. This is maybe one rea­son why none of the sur­veyed mid-sized in­dus­trial, com­mer­cial and so­cial ac­tors are us­ing so­lar power to­day, al­though the sup­ply sit­u­a­tion with con­ven­tional power sources is ex­tremely prob­lem­atic.

To­day, many mid-sized PV projects in Nige­ria are fail­ing due to an ab­sence of proper plan­ning process from the sup­pli­ers’ side as well as from the clients’. The lat­ter of­ten de­mand PV sys­tems with­out hav­ing a clear un­der­stand­ing of what their power re­quire­ments re­ally are. Lo­cal EPC com­pa­nies rarely re­quest a de­tailed power de­mand anal­y­sis from their clients, nor per­form power au­dits or even load mea­sure­ments at the clients’ premises. Hence, many PV sys­tems are not well di­men­sioned, planned, in­stalled or op­er­ated. Fur­ther­more, the qual­ity of PV equip­ment and sys­tems is of­ten poor be­cause the low­est prices tend to drive pur­chase de­ci­sions.

This chicken-egg prob­lem can only be solved by ed­u­cat­ing the sup­pli­ers on the one hand and rais­ing the de­mand-side’s aware­ness on the other hand. This is where the ini­tia­tive “Let’s make so­lar work”, started by the Ger­man-Nige­rian so­lar com­pa­nies’ con­sor­tium comes into play.

State-of-the-art so­lar power knowhow for Nige­ria

“Let’s make so­lar work” pro­motes and sup­ports the mar­ket in­tro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity PV diesel hy­brid sys­tems to mid-sized power con­sumers, such as small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) and so­cial fa­cil­i­ties. Th­ese ac­tors are the true back­bone of the Nige­rian econ­omy and they do not only re­quire but de­serve ac­cess to re­li­able and

af­ford­able power. To tackle the many qual­ity is­sues men­tioned above,

Let’s make so­lar work dis­sem­i­nates Ger­man knowhow to Nige­rian en­ergy pro­fes­sion­als through train­ing sem­i­nars on fo­cused power au­dit­ing, ad­vanced power ef­fi­ciency mea­sures and the use of so­lar PV-diesel hy­brid power sup­ply so­lu­tions. The par­tic­i­pat­ing pro­fes­sion­als are en­abled to sys­tem­at­i­cally ad­vise SMEs and so­cial fa­cil­i­ties on suit­able so­lu­tions for sav­ing en­ergy and for se­cur­ing a more sta­ble en­ergy sup­ply by sim­ply us­ing so­lar en­ergy.

Three pi­lot power au­dits have re­cently been car­ried out in two se­lected SMEs and one hospi­tal. They serve as good prac­tice ex­am­ples for so­lar pro­fes­sion­als who de­velop medium-sized so­lar projects by of­fer­ing fo­cused power au­dits to their clients. The ini­tia­tive is co-fi­nanced by the Ger­man devel­oPPP.de pro­gramme with Ger­man pub­lic funds and op­er­ates a very in­for­ma­tive web­site un­der www.lets­makeso­lar­work.com which fea­tures the “PV in­vest­ment cal­cu­la­tor” for clients and sup­pli­ers and also of­fers at­trac­tive down­loads.

Next to two ini­tial train­ing sem­i­nars for train­ers and so­lar EPC com­pa­nies car­ried out suc­cess­fully in La­gos at the end of 2017 and another to come be­fore the end of June, 2018, more such train­ing sem­i­nars are in prepa­ra­tion with well-es­tab­lished Nige­rian vo­ca­tional train­ing in­sti­tutes. The goal is to pen­e­trate the top­i­cal train­ing con­tents through­out

Nige­ria. Fur­ther­more, ac­com­pa­ny­ing dis­sem­i­na­tion ac­tiv­i­ties spread the knowl­edge about the ini­tia­tive and its com­pre­hen­sive tool of­fer­ing to all rel­e­vant Nige­rian stake­hold­ers through tar­geted me­dia work and via Face­book.

Rais­ing aware­ness, de­ter­min­ing costs, and find­ing com­pe­tent sup­pli­ers

Given the ini­tial suc­cess of Let’s make so­lar work, the two Ger­man Min­istries of For­eign Af­fairs and of Econ­omy and En­ergy have just been con­vinced to boost the ini­tia­tive with more tar­geted mea­sures on the de­mand side. In

June, 2018, a new on­line cam­paign called “So­lar works, Save money” will be launched to ad­dress SMEs and so­cial fa­cil­i­ties such as hos­pi­tals, schools, churches and mosques. The cen­trally fea­tured PV in­vest­ment cal­cu­la­tor en­ables po­ten­tial PV users to eas­ily as­sess the eco­nomics of a PV diesel hy­brid sys­tem in­vest­ment, with in­di­ca­tors such as pay­back time, LCOE, IRR and NPV. Fur­ther­more, the web­site lists com­pe­tent Nige­rian so­lar com­pa­nies able to carry out a fo­cused power au­dit, to di­men­sion a cus­tomised PV diesel hy­brid sys­tem and to sub­mit pro­fes­sional of­fers to their in­ter­ested clients.

Co­op­er­a­tion with other ac­tive so­lar pro­grammes and ini­tia­tives in Nige­ria will be ac­tively sought be­cause Ger­many’s early ex­pe­ri­ence with en­ergy tran­si­tion and co­op­er­a­tion dy­nam­ics teaches that the whole is big­ger than the sum of its parts: It takes as many ded­i­cated part­ners as pos­si­ble to un­leash the po­ten­tial of so­lar en­ergy.

‘Co­op­er­a­tion with other ac­tive so­lar pro­grammes and ini­tia­tives in Nige­ria will be ac­tively sought be­cause Ger­many’s early ex­pe­ri­ence with en­ergy tran­si­tion and co­op­er­a­tion dy­nam­ics teaches that the whole is big­ger than the sum of its parts’

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