Most African nations have been dragging their feet in the development of their power systems owing to the prime reason of upfront cost of erecting new power plants as well as electricity grids. However, the benefits derivable from energy as a tool for development cannot be overemphasised. Fortunately, its significance to industrial growth in Nigeria is being appreciated now.
Likewise, many governments have been slow to pass and implement policies to attract investment in the power and energy sector. The icing on the cake is that generating power from renewables such as wind and solar is now as affordable as using fossil fuels in various places. So, a great opportunity exists for Nigeria to open its arm and embrace the clean energy revolution.
Africa is seeing a great revolution in the energy sector as Kenya, Ethiopia, and South African nations are championing the development of the renewable energy systems. The benefits of renewable energy utilisation to a developing nation such as Nigeria cannot be overstated. This is because the population growth in Nigeria is very robust with increasing industrial activities as well as the attendant economic challenges and environmental pollution.
The Need to Abandon Fossil Fuel
It is a well-known fact that the Nigeria’s industrial activities have been powered by the dirty fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil for many decades, with the many negative consequences to both human health and the environment, with the exception of hydro power. The overall energy production consists mainly of hydroelectricity and the exploitation of the nation’s vast oil reserves.
So, Nigeria is in immediate need for rural electrification as well as improving its existing power infrastructure. Erratic power supply and intermittent outages coupled with associated risks of using fossil fuels remain a great challenge to the sector. This has forced Nigeria to look at alternative energy sources to power small and off-grid systems.
Renewable Energy – solar, wind, biomass is the answer!
Renewable Energy in Nigeria
Renewables have already been taken up in Nigeria with hydropower as the major viable source of renewable energy, but solar energy is yet to be massively exploited for street lightings mostly in the cities. Although Nigeria has little investment in renewable energy, it really has some favourable conditions in place to attract clean energy investment.
About 60% of the people in Nigeria are living off the grid, and these are the population that is facing highest electricity tariffs in the whole of Africa. This challenge coupled with the poor electrification of rural areas should make way for investment in renewable energy such as solar power in off-grid and micro-grid applications – as a reliable alternative to take the country to greater heights.
The targets of achieving clean energy are threatened by energy produced from gas which accounts for 81.6% of the total energy production in Nigeria, and the lack of trust in Nigeria’s currency by foreign investors as the country is mainly dependent on its exported oil. Besides, Nigeria has one of the top 10 natural gas endowments globally and is the biggest in Africa.
But these threats are surmountable.
However, the Nigerian Government through its Ministry of Power is committed to making a sustainable energy available for up to 75% of her population by the end of 2020 and all her citizens by the end of 2030 by linking an average of about 1.5 million homes in a year.
Equally, the feed-in tariff regulation approved by the Nigerian Government aims to use Nigeria’s vast and mostly untapped resources for Renewable Energy as well as stimulate investment in the energy sector. So, a total of 2,000 MW is expected to be generated through Renewables such as solar, wind, biomass, and small hydro by the end of 2020.
Renewable Energy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Power generated in most parts of Africa is by old fossil fuel plants and generators, while 65% of the total amount of energy produced in 2012 came from either coal or gas source. The techniques employed in the process are highly unsustainable and have proven to be very expensive for both the government and the end user. This has paved way for industry experts and researchers to look for alternative energy sources.
The most popular renewable energy source in sub-Saharan Africa is hydro-electricity which accounts for 22% of the total energy produced in the region. This energy source has proven to be a major competitive alternative to fossil fuels as a result of its high energy yields and low consumer costs.
The sub-Saharan Africa region is one of the largest and relatively untapped areas with respect to energy investment. Although dysfunctional grid structures and low overall infrastructural development are common issues in the sub-Saharan region which need to be addressed for development to take place, there is the need to invest in renewable energy to fuel economic growth as the region is economically viable.
However, the region is heavily plagued by low electrification rates, lack of access to the main grid of the host country coupled with the fact that the costs of solar PV are declining while projects are becoming attractive; this has provided a lot of better opportunities for solar PV projects within the region.
The region’s inherent prominent qualities have proven that solar energy can be a reliable solution to meeting the increasing energy requirement. Notably, the region contains nations that have the highest irradiation levels in Africa such as Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya. These potentials are already been exploited on a micro-level through the mini-grid and off-grid ideas.
At the moment, about 37% of these projects contain solar energy component, which is expected to increase to 47% by the year 2040 as a result of new policies in the region.
In the bid to reduce greenhouse gas in the energy sector, every country in the sub-Saharan region has incorporated components of renewable energy in its power sector reforms which are expected to increase in the years ahead.
“Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa that is rated as having enough INDIC, and it has developed an elaborate Green Economy Plan and is strategising for a carbon-free status by 2025, making it a highly ambitious country in controlling climate change,” according to Climate Tracker.
Also, “the Ugandan government has shown initial support for Renewable Energy by making a policy in 2007 with the overarching objective to increase the use of modern Renewable Energy from the current 4% to 61% of the total energy consumption by the end of 2107,” says IRENA.
The problem of providing electricity for Nigeria in particular and sub-Saharan Africa, in general, is rapidly taking the most important position of investment in the developing world and will remain a reference point in the region’s economic future. So, energy experts are of the opinion that countries in this region should collaborate more on a local level to solve the climate change and energy crisis problems.
By Chizurum Chikwendu