The inability of the Federal Government to harness the potential inherent in solar energy has left the country far behind other nations in the development of this renewable energy. It has also further dealt a debilitating blow on its aspiration to becoming an industralised nation.
A recent report by Techpoint.ng, which quoted the Science and Education Publishing Journal disclosed that the Nigerian industrial sector barely utilised power supply from the national grid for a period of 28 years, adding that the case isn’t different today. ‘‘And as it turns out, their resort to self-generated electricity incurs high cost of production, which a report puts at N3.5 trillion per annum.”
Nigerians have continued to rely on hydro-powered electricity yet statistics show that less than 40 per cent of its populations is connected to the national grid, thus leaving about 60 per cent of Nigerians in darkness and without an alternative source of electricity.
According to worldometers.info, the Nigerian population is above 183 million and about 55 per cent of the population has no access to grid-connected electricity while access to electricity in the rural areas is about 35 per cent and about 55 per cent in urban areas.
It has been estimated that developing economies would need about 1,000mw per million people to meet their electricity demand. Invariably, Nigeria would require more than 160,000mw to achieve the desired electricity generation capacity.
Experts have equally highlighted the dangers of relying solely on hydro and fossil-powered electricity to include rising oil costs, environmental problems and possible disasters from thermal and nuclear power stations. They posited that a move towards more renewable energy, one which is cleaner and more environmentally friendly was necessary, arguing that the most efficient source of power would be solar which is abundant, consistent and reliable.
Solar energy to the rescue
According to Techpoint.ng, of several attempts made by the government to stabilise electricity in Nigeria, solar initiatives seem to have made much better headway.
In July 2017, two communities in Kaduna, Gnami and Pakau celebrated two years of uninterrupted power from the 90-kilowatt solar Photovoltaic (PV) off-grid system installed in the areas – as the villages are far from the reach of the national power grid.
In addition to this, the Bank of Industry (BoI) has successfully served electricity to six off-grid Nigerian communities by installing solar panels. One each in Niger, Osun, Gombe, Anambra, Edo and Kaduna states. Also in October 2016, Nigeria’s first solar plant was inaugurated at the University of Ibadan. According to the Federal Government, the plant will, when completed, power three universities and their environments by supplying 10 megawatts of renewable energy. Just eight months after this, another solar project- the first set of a solar-powered estate in Abuja was announced in June 2017.
Private investor takes the lead
Lumos, a solar power and off-grid solar home systems provider and pioneers of mobile electricity in Nigeria, recently announced a one-month price reduction window on its Lumos Solar Power Systems, in a move intended to empower micro and small businesses owners and households as part of its commitment to improving the quality of life of Nigerians through reliable, accessible electricity for all.
With this offer, subscribers can now join the service for only N20,000 set up fee, which already has bundled into it, one full month of mobile electricity subscription; previously, that would have come to a cost of N36,500.
The company said it hoped the move would encourage more micro and small businesses to sign up to the service and start enjoying major significant savings on their power generation expenses compared to fuelling and running a small generator. Speaking at the Nigerian Energy Forum held recently in Lagos, CEO of Lumos, Mr. Houssam Azem, one of the keynote speakers at the event, said, “Lumos is excited at the chance to stimulate economic growth and improve profitability for micro and small businesses by reducing the entry barrier for them joining our service, and in doing so, unlocking significant cost savings for them.”
On the other hand, All On, an independent impact investing company, recently made its first set of transactions aimed at facilitating increased access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy sources for low income households, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and communities.
Seeded with funding from Royal Dutch Shell, All On works with partners to increase access to commercial energy products and services for under-served and un-served off-grid energy markets in Nigeria, with a special focus on the Niger Delta. “This initial set of transactions demonstrates our commitment to utilising a market-based approach to making a sustainable impact in the off-grid energy sector in partnership with global and local market leaders. It is just the beginning of our investments towards improving access to energy in Nigeria for the tens of millions of off-grid households and SMEs across the country,’’ CEO of All On, Dr. Wiebe Boer, said.
All On has also entered into a grant agreement with Solar Nigeria, a UK aid-funded project implemented by Adam Smith International, for the receipt of grant funding to further de-risk investments made by All On in the Solar Home System (SHS) space.
Nigeria lags behind
However, despite all of these attempts, there have been limitations. Most of these solar solutions can only power few appliances and are basically suited for use in rural areas. But considering that other smaller African nations have been able to harness solar energy for high-end operations, why isn’t Nigeria replicating solar projects in urban areas?
Ayodeji O. Deji, CEO of Protergia Energy, an Abuja-based renewable energy company, reinforces this fact: “Renewable energy is the way modern society is going. Fear in some quarters that solar energy cannot power high power demanding machinery and appliances is baseless as it is capable of powering all that the conventional grid electricity can power.
“Scouting for the potential of solar energy, I discovered that the entire earth can, in fact, be powered by solar energy. Going by this discovery, it is no gainsaying that solar energy is a grossly underrated and under-utilised resource; it could actually end Nigeria’s power crisis if properly channelled.”
Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries with a population of over 158 million and has made a success story from implementing off-grid power solutions. The government of Bangladesh initiated the SHS-based rural electrification programme in 2003 through Infrastructure Development Company Limited under a micro-credit scheme.
In 2002, only 7,000 Bangladeshi households used solar panels but as of today, the programme has installed about two million SHS in the country. Also, since 2010, about four mini-grids have been installed and nine others are to be installed in off-grid locations of Bangladesh.
Morocco, for instance, launched one of the world’s largest solar energy projects costing an estimated $9 billion and according to reports, the five solar power stations to be constructed will generate 2,000 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020.
Countries like China, India, Japan and even the USA have harnessed solar energy on a mega scale. In fact, these countries appear to be in hot pursuit of claiming the position as the site of the world’s largest solar panel plant. As of 2016, China had the title with the world’s largest photovoltaic power station being the 850mw Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in Gonghe County, Qinghai. This year, China and India are rapidly closing in on each other.
The solar energy constraints
The fact that the Nigerian government has embarked on some previously unsuccessful solar projects brings to mind the possible limiting factors for solar power adoption in Nigeria. A peep into what really thwarts the solar project efforts of the government in Nigeria reveals that third-party involvement and nefarious activities of some contractors pose the greatest threats to mega solar projects. Government’s unreadiness also takes its toll on such projects.