GLORY OGUEGBU: Changing the Face of Renewable Energy Education in Nigeria

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GLORY OGUEGBU

Ms. Glory Oguegbu is  the founder and co-ordinator for Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute (RETTI),  a subsidiary of Renewable Energy Technology Training Company, one of Nigeria’s foremost institutions, solely dedicated to providing tailor-made training for renewable energy and energy efficiency value chain. The institute has trained more than 100 engineers and other individuals interested in starting renewable energy business on Solar Photovoltaic Design and Installation. Oguegbu, who is just 29 years old,  doesn’t just train them, under her leadership, RETTI  has launched the Growth Support Plan for all alumni, a platform to connect them with opportunities, mentorship, internships, job opportunities, all in a bid to help them establish as renewable energy entrepreneurs. She speaks with Peter Uzoho. Excerpts:

You’re a very young woman thriving in a male dominated sector. Tell me what inspired your passion towards renewable energy?

I would say that my journey to renewable energy technology began in 2015 when I came across a campaign by WWF that included an image titled “Stop Climate Change, Before it Changes You” where a man is shown with a monster-like fish head as a sign of reverse evolution that might occur if climate change and ice melting continue at such alarming rate. I was frightened and wondered if climate change would make people look old and disfigured like in the image.
The image was etched in my mind and drove me to research into the subject matter. When I read on the impact of climate change on humans and the environment,  I was consumed by an urgent fear and then had the urge to do everything possible to reduce the negative impact of climate change.
Around that period, my retired parents moved to their newly completed building in a community in another part of town different from where I was born. In this community, they weren’t connected to the electricity grid. My heart broke each time my parents spent money to buy fuel for the generator for only three to five hours a day, which is usually in the night and sometimes money to purchase fuel is not frequently available.
This troubled me and I delved deeper into my research where I learned about renewable energy and how it can help combat both climate change and provide stable electricity for 93 million Nigerians who have no access to electricity including my parents.

Wow!, truly inspiring story. How did you decide that Renewable Energy Education was the sector you wanted to focus on?

During my research into the problem of climate change and lack of electricity, I discovered something interesting. I came across a solar Installation project for a health centre in the community my parents moved into. It wasn’t functioning. The locals told me it stopped working after six months. Further research revealed other solar installations, which failed after a short while.  This made the people doubt that solar works.
I discovered that this was a lack of capacity and efficiency problem on the part of the local installers. And I thought that if solar is the future of electricity, then it is paramount to train local content to become efficient in the area so that they can provide sustainable solutions.
Despite not having an engineering background, I paid for and took a course – Off-Grid Solar Power Systems Design and learned about basic solar system sizing to enable me create solution for electricity problems.
I decided to use my new knowledge to educate thousands of young Nigerians including engineers and other interested individuals to be efficient technicians and providers of solar electricity and also mentoring and guiding them to establish as renewable energy entrepreneurs who will create sustainable solutions that will meet the energy demands of their communities.

That’s interesting …

That was how Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute started. The mission is to promote the knowledge of renewable energy and energy efficiency best practices through tailor-made courses that address the energy value chain to contribute to capacity building and bridge the knowledge gap, thereby creating efficient energy technicians, engineers, developers and employees, who will create solutions to solve the energy problems in their communities.
At this time we offer courses on Solar PV Design and Sizing, Solar Installation, Energy Efficiency and Management in Buildings, Renewable Energy Entrepreneurship etc. We will be having training from 1st April and 15th April in Lekki, Lagos and Port Harcourt respectively. We can be found on www.retti.com.ng or via a simple Google search of our name (Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute).

You’re young!  If I may ask, what drives you? Do you sometimes feel like you missed out on your youth?

What drives me ? I have been asked this, many times. It is simple- Providing access to energy through grooming entrepreneurs, who will solve energy challenges in their communities. Many of our graduate entrepreneurs have gone ahead to start their businesses. We’ve kept a close tab on them all through our GSP Platform.  They were taught Solar PV entrepreneurship and they have been identifying energy problems around them and providing solutions to it. Energy or electricity challenges are different. You may meet a bank manager, who wants to power the entire bank including ACs on solar. That project might run into a few millions.
You could meet a woman selling food in a kiosk or a barber. Their needs may just be a solution that will power two bulbs, one fan in their kiosk and few charging points. It could be a small business centre that wants to power a laptop, one fan, one TV and one printer, it could be a market woman that sells at night and just needs one solar lantern.
These energy needs differ and we teach our entrepreneurs these differences and how to identify the needs in order to create tailor-made solutions. My joy is when these entrepreneurs excel in their small business by creating these kinds of solution.
On the question of missing out on my youth, well, my whole twenties have been used to build my dream and I am not even halfway there. It has not been easy I must say. I have been broken, disappointed many times. I have failed a lot. I used to say to my colleagues that I am one young lady I know, who have gathered so much failure so early in life. What kept me was consistency. Sometimes I wish I had a 9am  to 5pm  job to help with cash because there are days you’re broke, but somehow with determination the light comes through. Yes, many times I feel like I have missed out on a lot of grooving and partying like people do in their twenties, but I have no regrets.

What advice do you have for the young ones?

Be focused and pursue your dreams while you still have the time. There’s no faster or easier way. The only thing I know that works is diligence and consistency. There will be frustrating times and many crying nights. But your ‘Why’ is the key that will keep you. Find a niche you’re passionate about, follow through with all your might and the opportunities will come knocking.