The Untapped Potential of Renewable Energy

Agnes Ekebuike examines the importance of renewable energy and the need for government to tap into its potential for economic growth.

A recent report has revealed that apart from fossil fuels, Nigeria has abundant potential for renewable energy production, such as solar, hydropower, biomass and wind.

The report remarked that while much of the clean energy potential has gone untapped, present realities provide an ideal opportunity to change its energy mix, and deliver more reliable power to its citizenry.

Nigeria and most sub-Saharan African countries are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other frameworks, Nigeria participated in the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and committed to achieve net-zero by 2060.

Achieving this will require a shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, as well as the provision of clean, affordable and reliable energy for the nearly 90 million Nigerians currently living without it. 

The Director of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Francesco La Camera, said: “Nigeria can provide sustainable energy for all its citizens in a cost-effective manner by using its abundant, untapped renewables. Nigeria has a unique opportunity to develop a sustainable energy system based on renewables that support socioeconomic recovery and development, while addressing climate challenges and accomplishing energy security.”

Nigeria’s march to renewable energy requires the commitment of the private and public participants. Both players are crucial players in this sector. Stakeholders in the sector have recognised the fact that Nigeria’s energy sector faces numerous challenges, from inadequate infrastructure to policy inconsistencies, and solar power is no exception. Despite the abundance of sunshine, there is need to face the hurdles in harnessing this renewable energy source.

As part of scaling the efforts of the private sector, a colloquium with the theme: “Solar Power in Nigeria-Matters Arising” was organised by Kon-X Limited.

Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director, Kon-X Limited, Deric Legogie, stated that the adoption of renewable energy in Nigeria was at its infancy stage, but growing rapidly.

He also disclosed that the level of adoption also varies across states and cities, adding that solar power has been much more adopted compared to wind, hydro or biomass.

On his part, the President of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria, (REAN), Ayo Ademilua, said there had been a surge in the adoption of renewable energy in Nigeria.

Domestic Production

As part of efforts to drive local production in Nigeria, the Nigeria Sovereign Insurance Authority (NSIA), in January 2023, completed the development and construction of a 10mw solar farm in the Kumbotso Local Government Area (LGA) of Kano State on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The $16 million photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant, which sits on a 24 hectare parcel of land, and associated 12km energy evacuation infrastructure is the largest utility-scale solar farm in Nigeria. 

The inauguration of the project was a remarkable feat delivered under a very tight timeline despite significant supply chain challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19.

In Nigeria there are top five solar PV plants in developments, and they include; the Argungu Solar PV Park, a 5,600MW Solar PV power project located in Kebbi, Nigeria. The project is currently in announced stage. The project is expected to enter commercial operation in 2027.

The 360MW Gezhouba Lagos Solar PV Park is located in Lagos, Nigeria. It is owned by Falcore Power and Energy.

The Jigawa Solar PV Park is a 1,000MW Solar PV power project in Jigawa, Nigeria. The project is expected to come online by 2025. The project is currently in announced stage. 

The Lafia Solar PV Park is a 350MW Solar PV power project. It is planned in Nasarawa, Nigeria. The project is currently in permitting stage. 

The 270MW Solar PV project, Gombe Solar PV Park is expected to get commissioned by 2026. It is being developed by Sun Africa; Sterling and Wilson. The project is currently in permitting stage.

Energy Transition Plan

The Energy Transition Plan (ETP) seeks to promote a fair, inclusive and equitable energy transition (which posits gas as a “transitionary fuel”) and ensure that Nigeria’s poverty eradication and economic development strategies are configured around energy transition initiatives.

The ETP is anchored on poverty eradication through an increase in the standard of living for over 100 million people. ETP is aimed at driving sustainable economic growth in key domestic commercial sectors. It will also provide universal electricity access to the population.

Speaking on the importance of ETP, Legogie said renewable energy would continue to play a very vital role in the energy transition plan, adding that it is the future and it is one of the few sectors in which stakeholders are gainfully exploring the gift of nature rather than exploiting nature.

He remarked that with the right policies and business environment, the renewable energy space would continue to grow.

He added: “We must engage research to ensure that renewal energy is locally adapted beyond residential use and effectively deployed in healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture.”

Adoptability and Pricing

The REAN President revealed that the renewable energy sector is an economical driven project, noting that the current economic conditions of the country especially the macroeconomic policies which drives activities of the business men, has not been favourable for doing business in the country.

“At the level of REAN, we are trying to attract some international development finance institutions. We are also working to get some form of instrument that will help de-risk and provide some demand side subsides to make it easier and affordable for consumers to purchase.” he stated.

Energy Financing and Sustainability

Ademilua reiterated that the essence of the Nigeria transition Energy Plan is to get the country to net zero by the year 2060, pointing out that the government is putting in all efforts to drive Nigeria to net zero carbon emission by 2060 particularly in transportation and domestic usage.

Continuing, he added: “In terms of climate financing in Nigeria, we are beginning to witness interesting times. Before now, we didn’t have the commercial banks and other investors really interested in climate financing. But in the last one to two years, we are beginning to see a lot of interest arising from the banks towards climate financing.”

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