MONDAY EDITORIAL

It will serve the nation well if the authorities could exploit our renewable energy resources

Notwithstanding the abundant natural gas reserves, billions of crude oil reserves, tonnes of coal and lots of renewable energy sources on the continent, majority of Nigerians still live in darkness. “Of the nearly 1.5 billion people estimated to lack electricity supply world over, half live in Africa. Nigeria alone is estimated to have over 90 million people living without electricity supply,’’ said the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, in an address at a recent renewable energy conference in Ibadan, Oyo State.

It is indeed a shame that despite the huge investment of several billions of naira and dollars in recent years in the power sector, things are still exceedingly bleak. Nigerians are grossly underserved, with perhaps one of the lowest energy per-capita rates in the world. According to Fashola, as at December 2017, Nigeria had an all-time high power peak generation delivery of 5222MW while it presently has a generating capacity of around 7,000 MW. While those figures may sound impressive, they are of little substance. Their impact is hardly felt. Darkness is still an irritating companion of most Nigerians every day of the year.

With individuals and businesses resorting to self-help through an assortment of generators, the epileptic nature of power supply makes the country one of the harshest environments for business. It is therefore heartening that the federal government is applying a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the energy crisis. Fashola said the government was implementing off-grid renewable energy solutions such as rural mini-grids, standalone home solutions, IPP for federal universities, teaching hospitals and large-scale solar PV projects such as the Jigawa solar city. In addition, he said the government was making efforts to complete and inaugurate some renewable energy projects to complement the traditional fossil fuel mostly used in the country and reshape the energy mix. These include the 10MW Katsina wind farm, 30MW Gurara Hydro Power, 29MW Dadin Kowa Hydropower and 40MW Kashibila Hydro-power, 700MW Zungeru Hydropower and the 14 Solar IPP.

 As rightly argued by the minister, the huge energy deficit and the negative environmental impact of using fossil fuel for energy generation as well as the falling costs of renewable energy technologies like solar power “are driving the current energy transition towards renewable energy as being witnessed across the world, including here in Africa.”

Indeed, the need for a cleaner and cheaper source of renewable power was demonstrated recently by no one than the affluent Saudi Arabia, a country with vast oil resources and the largest exporter of oil. According to reports, Saudi Arabia intends to invest some $7 billion to develop seven new solar plants and a big wind farm which it hopes would provide as much as 10 per cent of its power generation by the end of 2023.

Thus for Nigeria, the attempt to reach the millions of our citizens in both the urban and rural areas who still live in darkness, decentralised renewable energy (DRE) offers the best option because of its competitive advantage. For one, the DRE can deliver energy access in a number of months as against the years it takes to site, permit, build and manage a traditional centralised fossil fuel grid system. Besides, the costs of installing solar and wind farms, for instance, have fallen over the years.

Therefore, it will serve the nation well if the authorities can exploit the full range of our renewable  energy resources, especially since DRE—ranging from standalone solar systems to mini grids and mobile solar farms—is readily available, cost-effective and immediately deployable. Fashola should go beyond mere rhetoric by leading the efforts for the deployment of renewable energy to tackle the crisis of electricity in Nigeria.