Clean Energy Revolution: Tackling Nigeria’s Energy Poverty

On June 30th 2017, The Punch reported that Mr Bakary Dosso, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Chief Sub-Regional officer, Data Center said that “Nigeria has an untapped potential to produce 93,950 MW from carbon emission-free energy sources, which include small and large hydroelectric power plants, 68 percent and nuclear power, 21 percent. Also, Nigeria has an untapped potential of seven percent solar and photovoltaic and onshore wind, two per cent”. He also mentioned that in spite of such potential, it was sad that half of the population depended on wood, charcoal, manure and crop residues for energy. Currently, Nigeria has a total installed electricity capacity of 12,522 MW and an available capacity of only about 4,500 MW. This present levels of power generation meet only a fraction of demand, and the renewable energy could play a role in accelerating the process.

Tackling the energy deficit is one of the important pros of aggressively making the transition to renewable energy sources. In 2011, the International Energy Agency said that “the development of affordable, inexhaustible and clean solar energy technologies will have huge longer-term benefits. It will increase countries’ energy security through reliance on an indigenous, inexhaustible and mostly import-independent resource, enhance sustainability, reduce pollution, lower the costs of mitigating climate change, and keep fossil fuel prices lower than otherwise. These advantages are global. Hence the additional costs of the incentives for early deployment should be considered learning investments; they must be wisely spent and need to be widely shared”.

The cost per unit of power of renewable energy ($0.26– 0.50/kWh) remains markedly higher than that of grid electricity ($0.10–0.15/kWh), which is the main reason for subsidies and feed-in tariffs in most countries. Much of the planning and incentives overseas are based around climate change commitments and trends where the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy will make it competitive without subsidies within a decade. In Nigeria, immediate renewable-energy competitiveness is more likely because reliance on generators and kerosene puts the real cost of energy needs in many areas at over $0.50/kWh.

Embracing clean energy would go a long way in reducing the adverse effects of burning fossil fuels. Oil exploration and production has resulted in several spills in the Niger-Delta region of Nigeria and has caused a lot of havoc to the people, animals, the land and water. Oil spills are extremely expensive to clean up and take years. Reducing or totally cutting out these fossil

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An aquatic creature that has been severely affected by an oil spill. Source: The Odyssey Online

fuels would put less pressure on forests and eradicate air pollution related ailments. Nigeria flares 17.2 billion metric tonnes of gas yearly. This releases pollutants and outdoor air pollution kills 3.3 million people yearly. This is more than HIV, Malaria and Influenza combined. Gas flaring releases oxides of nitrogen and sulphur that when combined with rain water lowers the pH which results in acidic rain which in turn destroys building, pollutes lakes, rivers and damages forests. Unfortunately, little has has been done to salvage the affected areas. Clean energy would greatly benefit remote areas and create more employment.  Asides these, clean energy would reduce the pressure on the grid. Already there are small-scale solar lighting products in the market and they are gradually being embraced. An example is the Lumos Mobile Electricity powered by MTN Nigeria. People can now pay as low as 150 Naira to enjoy basic lighting – to charge phones and laptops, see at night, power ceiling fans. This is particularly good because I have personal experiences of having to sleep early due to power outage as I cannot carry out further tasks. These products however still need efficient and aggressive marketing. Another important advantage of renewable energy is that it is inexhaustible and there is security of supply. Going off the grid would also reduce the emission of greenhouse gases hence reduce global warming and the detriments that come with it.

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Lumos Mobile Electricity powered by MTN. Source: sparkonline.com.ng

I was discussing this transition with a colleague and he claimed that the transition might be frustrated by the powers possessed by the International Oil Companies to stall the progress of renewable energy because oil money is sweet. I firmly objected because what just needs to be done is to convince them about the potentials of the transition, make them invest in the ventures, sponsor further researches. There might be a technology yet undiscovered that would close the loop with respect to burning fossil fuels so it becomes a win-win situation. After all we are all after getting rid of the negative effects that come with oil exploration, production, use and disposal. Its just a loud thought and I believe that the IOCs would look into it if the oil is so difficult to stay away from.

 

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