Renewables and additive to light-up 100m Nigerians

    Power supply is described as the soul of a business-driven country. Although it is an applause to experience a privatised electricity industry, it is much more impressing if there is sustainable structures of electricity supply that are well enhanced and groomed to meet the rising demand.

    According to records obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country, at present, has over 170 million people with a yearly population increased rate of 3.2percent, translating into about 5.3million annual increase in population.
    A recent World Bank Report estimated that only 48 percent of Nigerians have access to electricity. But the Director of International Centre for Energy and Environment Development, Mr Ewa Eleri, at a renewable energy event said about 100 million Nigerians have no access to electricity.
    Hence, with the 3,000 meagwatts (mw) being generated from five unbundled power Generation companies (Gencos) and other independent utilities, the supply is still inadequate, given a forecast demand from the Federal Ministry of Power, that presently puts demand at 12,000mw.
    The rhetoric here is how the main stream energy value chain of hydropower and thermal stations can generate adequate power to meet the surging demand to light up every home. However, experts have said emerging renewable energy technologies can be additive to lighting-up the 100 million Nigerians that live without access to electricity.
    Analysing Eleri’s claims, it is just 70 million Nigerians that have access to electricity while 82 percent are still far from being connected to the national electricity grid and most of them, officials in the power sector said, are in far-flung rural communities of the country.
    But ministry officials said there are efforts from the private sector and the government quarters to evolve a trend of utilising renewables comprising Photo-Voltaic (PV) solar technology, biomass, wind, and coal to complement the main stream generation of hydro and thermal (gas) plants that already constitute 70 percent of the value chain.
    Eleri said government has plans to actualise a 75 percent target by 2020 and that could only be achieved if sustainable and renewable energy technologies are integrated into the system.
    The Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, had earlier confirmed government’s resolve to attain this by exploiting untapped coal resources in Benue, Kogi, Gombe and Enugu, currently estimated to be over 3 billion tonness in reserve to power electricity in the country.
    Nebo said the flag off of Operation Light-up Rural Nigeria (OLRN) projects in Abuja in January which will be expanded to the 36 states before year end, is a demonstration of the effort to adopt renewable energy. “There is a deliberate plan by government to diversify the energy mix through the exploitation of renewable energy resources of solar, wind, small hydro and biomass,” Nebo said. On the investment potential of the power sector, the Chairman, Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) at a recent stakeholders’ conference, said the sector is worth over N620 billion and is expected to grow to over N1trillion by 2016.  Amadi urged investors to key into the reforms in the sector, saying that the electricity market is bound to grow in leaps and bounds in a short while. As this year’s Nigerian Alternative Energy Expo (NAEE) comes in a fortnight from now, Chairman of the organising consortium, Dr Emmanuel Onyejeose told Daily Trust from South Africa that there is need to expedite action to grow renewables to provide access to rural electrification, citing South Africa as a country that has gone beyond the rural scope to initiating renewables in cities.
    He urged government to build on the growing success of last year’s power utilities’ privatisation saying: “The major constraints still militating on ultimate power utility hang on sustainable energy generation and distribution across the various Distribution Companies (Discos).”
    According to him, the theme for NAEE 2014 is “Evolution to Renewable Energy is the Only Solution,” with the event scheduled to feature discussants from the Africa Sustainable Energy Association (AFSEA),  African Development Bank (AfDB), Environment Ministry’s Renewable Energy Programme, the Energy Commission of Nigeria, World Bank, the ministry of power and over 4,000 professionals worldwide.
    Another official, Mr Edeh, who spoke on the need to create more jobs and empower the masses through developing renewable energy in Nigeria, said: “We are empowering local communities through various projects to become more self-sufficient through initiatives that include renewable energy solutions, food security, skills development and job creation.”
    He said with Nigeria now having Renewable Energy Policy documents in process, the Expo will engender wider consultations to enable local and international participants stay abreast of developments and highlight issues affecting the energy industry.
    He added: “It will further highlight technologies, strategies and policies covering the wind, solar, biofuel, hydrocarbon, geothermal, ocean/tidal/wave, finance, and hydrogen in Nigeria.  There has never been a better time to be a part of this exciting moment that the Nigerian government has pledged to deliver uninterrupted power through alternative energy.”
    The NAEE Consortium expert, Dr Onyejeose, also disclosed that the United States ‘Power Africa Initiative’ “would allow the U.S to work closely with Nigeria to develop solar, gas and biomass in view of the UN’s recognition that Nigeria remains one of the countries in Africa with significant energy poverty.”
    The Consortium head said it is expected that over 30 countries will participate in the exhibition of renewable energy technology in the Nigeria’s capital, adding: “International investors, especially on Power Africa, are committed to helping Nigeria attain over 2,000mw of electricity injected into the power supply stream through renewable projects by 2020. For now, what investors want is a policy document and that is what is on.”