Nigeria’s bumpy road to renewable energy solutions

By Kingsley Jeremiah

Nigeria has been struggling to provide electricity for its fast growing population. In 2013, the country privatised its power sector hoping to upturn the despondent nature of the sector.

The Electric Power Sector Reform Act of 2005 unbundled the national power company into a series of 18 successor companies: six generation companies and 12 distribution companies covering all the 36 states while government is still in charge of transmission.

Bureau of Public Enterprises had stated that at takeover date in November 2013, available power generation capacity in Nigeria was 4, 500. It currently stands at around 7,000. Installed generation capacity stands at 13496MW as against 12500 Mega Watts (MW) at take over. In December last year, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) said the country’s transmission capacity has increased to 8, 100 MW from 5, 000 MW three years ago.

However, statistic from the market operators indicated that only about 4000MW gets to the consumer. Despite the epileptic supply, the continuous collapse of the national electricity grid has severally thrown the country into darkness.

Demand for electricity hovers around 98,000MW in Nigeria. With current output, there is allegedly shortfall, standing at around 93 000MW.

The prevailing situation, to most stakeholders creates opportunity for renewable options, especially as a more sustainable electricity source.

Renewable energy comes from sources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale, especially wind, geothermal heat, sunlight, rain, tides, waves and others. For a country with looming environmental challenges, focusing on renewable wont only contribute significantly to off-grip solutions but reduce climate change challenges.

The International Renewable Energy Agency noted that West African region has a vast renewable energy potential sufficient to cover unmet power demand and achieve universal access to electricity while supporting the region’s transition to a low-carbon growth path.

Nigeria reportedly has a yearly average sunshine of about 6.25 h, ranging from 3.5 h at the coastal regions to 9.0 h at the north while the mean daily solar radiation is about 5.25 kWh/m 2 per day, ranging from 3.5 kW/m 2 per day at coastal zones to 7.0 kWh/m 2 per day at the north.

Since the challenge of access to electricity is concentrated more in the rural community, renewable serves as a better means to reach undeserved users, living in rural communities, which are located quite far off the nearest connection to the national grid. This will enable the country meet up with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals on providing power for all.

Saleh Mamman, Nigeria’s Minister for Power had said government intends to use distributed power generation with locally available resource such as solar to achieve the upscale the situation in the country.

“Our being here today, reflects a deliberate demonstration of the importance both the state and Federal Government attached to the provision of electricity in remote and underserved communities across the country,’’ the minister said.

Currently, the Nigeria has developed the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP), which set out various policies and programmes for the deployment of renewable energy technologies in the country.

If the plan is implemented, NREEEP aims to boost short term generation from renewable to hit 5, 15, 117 MW of biomass, wind, and solar (PV and CSP) electricity respectively. Medium term (2020)- 57, 632, 1343 MW of biomass, wind, and solar (PV and CSP) electricity respectively and, Long term (2030)- 292, 3211, 6832 MW of biomass, wind, and solar (PV and CSP) electricity respectively

But current reality showed clear indications that the plan may remain elusive due to prevailing challenges, which include attracting investment into the sector, technical know-how, inconsistent and poor implementation of policies and other issues.

With increasing donor funding going into the sector in Nigeria, most industry players were of the opinion that there was need to address issues related to realising vision of a competent renewable blueprint, provide an integrated and scientific approach to the energy value chain, especially taking into account the interdependencies and synergies in the energy sub-sectors as well as political will to deliberately prioritize renewable energy.

It is critical to know that investment into renewable energy has been on the increase in Nigeria as most international donors appear to be interested in channeling resources to renewable energy instead of conventional sources. There are equally few power companies that are looking in this direction. However, this efforts must be sustained and drastically increased to drive projected economic development in the country.

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