Against the backdrop of the recent nationwide blackout on Sunday, June 12, only a week after a similar incident took place, experts have called on Nigerians to look beyond the on-grid power supply and begin to take the development of renewables and other energy sources more seriously.
Recall that the national grid developed a technical fault, causing the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to wheel out to the Power Electricity Distribution Companies (DisCos) about 19.2 percent (510MW (megawatts) of total generation for the stated day, according to data obtained by energyday from the “System Operator” (SO).
The experts in reaction to the development called on the private sector to increase investments in “alternative energy”, especially as the national grid keeps failing and negatively affecting businesses and households across the country.
They also advised the Government to create the right policy framework and enable a friendly business environment that would encourage increased private sector investments in the renewable/alternative energy space.
The experts emphasized that Nigeria needs to adopt an energy mix beside thermal and hydropower sources, which they believe may not sufficiently meet the energy needs of the country.
Tope Fasua, an economist, public policy expert and political activist , in an exclusive chat with Energyday on the way forward, emphasized the need for the nation to harness all available energy sources in the country, to help complement power supply from the national grid.
He equally advocated for the development of solar farms in the North where there is so much sunshine.
He however posited that renewables cannot power large industries using very sophisticated machines and equipment for production, noting that it is not advisable to embrace total use of renewable energy too quickly.
“I don’t agree with those that believe that we should go straight into renewables. Renewables cannot power heavy industries and we need industries in Nigeria. ‘You can’t run an economy that is solely dependent on foreigners, foreign countries and imports’
“We currently run an importation-based economy, which is never sustainable. We need to work around that,” he said.
He explained that the U.S and other Western nations advising Nigeria and the entire African continent to jettison fossil fuels and adopt the total use of renewable energy, are not sincere as they are still utilising the same.
He, therefore, advised the Federal Government to go back to the utilisation of coal and intensify its campaign for the use of gas.
“We need to press in all the energy sources we can find. So, with the sun, solar can work in the far North of Nigeria, let’s begin to think about solar energy farms there.
“We need to go back to the coal in Enugu and wherever else it can be found in the country. We can’t shut them down. We will be so unfair to ourselves if we take the advice of the West. What is wrong with using the coal in Enugu?
“As we speak today, the United States and almost the whole of Europe, not to mention China and India, are still using their coal. Some of them have increased the utilisation of coal. Why are we so dependent on only one source of energy?
Nigerian coal is one of the most bituminous in the world owing to its low sulphur and ash content and therefore the most environment-friendly. There are nearly 3 billion tonnes of indicated reserves in 17 identified coal fields and over 600 million tonnes of proven reserves.
“We must do everything to bring the gas in the South on board,” he said.
He also challenged Nigeria to develop its local manpower and solve its energy problems, rather than wait on foreign experts.
Fasua said, “I also think we need to begin to depend on ourselves. We have been graduating students from the University for so long. How come we are unable to do things by ourselves?
“I don’t blame the government alone for this, I also blame the people, the citizens – that is, you and I. The fact that all we have are just mere certificates – we can’t solve our problems. So, why did we get the certificates in the first place?”
Olawunmi Olatunji, an energy investment expert and CEO of Brockville Investments, called on investors, solar developers and other stakeholders in the country’s renewable space to see the recent grid failure as “a great opportunity for investments in renewables.”
Speaking with EnergyDay in a recent chat, she said more investments are needed to further develop the off-grid electricity market, to complement the on-grid power supply chain.
She also emphasized the need for more efforts from the TCN and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that grid failure is reduced to the barest or stopped.
“We understand that renewables need to come in to support the power grid.
“Pending when that happens, a lot of work still needs to be done, especially by the authority and people in charge of that grid,” she said.
While noting that the power grid is overburdened with excess load, Olatunji advocated for a robust solar system aimed at relieving the old grid and supplying complementary power to Nigerian businesses and households.
“If there is an off-grid solar system that serves many regions, it will reduce the current pressure on the national grid,” she said.
Olatunji further stated that the fault regularly developed by the grid affects businesses in Nigeria, stating that it creates unnecessary high costs of production for them.
“Imagine you have a business. For a public holiday like this, your business will have to run on diesel, and you would incur more cost than you would if you were supplied power from the grid.
“Investors in the renewable space should see the opportunity in all of this. For instance, if an electricity consumer has about eight to ten solar panels over their heads, they might not even remember what is called the national grid,” she said.
Afolabi Akinrogunde, Investment Manager at All On, an energy impact investing firm in Nigeria, said that there is currently “less than 4%” renewable penetration into the electricity market in Nigeria.
He called for more public sensitisation about the need to increase investments in renewables and the need for more collaboration among stakeholders in the country’s renewable energy industry.
“There’s a lot of education that needs to be done. There’s also a lot of integration that needs to be done.
“A lot of agencies are working in different ways. We need coordination to ensure that some of these good ideas reach the final users,” Akinrogunde said.