What is renewable energy?
Renewable Energy as the name implies, is energy that is naturally renewed in relatively quick succession. There are a number of renewable forms of energy that are being exploited today. Some of the most common ones include Hydropower, Wind and Solar. These resources are regarded as renewable forms of energy because they are easily replenished to the earth by the planet’s main source of energy, the SUN.
Hydro and Wind involves the transformation of the kinetic energy (or force) of their respective flowing/moving material components (water and air, respectively) into mechanical energy, which then may be further transformed into other desired forms of energy.
Solar Energy harnessing involves the conversion of the energy matter in sunlight (called photons) to either thermal energy or electrical energy (electricity). A common conversion medium that converts sunlight directly into electricity is called a photovoltaic cell and is what makes up solar panels that we know of today.
What is the potential of Renewable Energy in Nigeria like?
Nigeria has huge prospects for renewable energy with abundant quantities of sunlight, wind and water. Despite its rather weak or slow uptake, one of the nation’s oldest and reliable supply to the grid is from Hydroelectric generation. Hydroelectricity in Nigeria is produced by the three Hydro Stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro dams and they all currently contribute about 30% to the national grid supply. According to the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) policy developed by the Ministry of Power, under the administration of HM Babatunde Raji Fashola, this quota of Renewable Energy will be maintained (as a minimum) by 2030 and will include other forms of renewable energy. This target is rather easily achievable and arguably not optimistic enough given the nation’s sustainable amounts of renewable energy resources and the projected timeline. However, we can appreciate the fact that the total projected power is 30 GW as it means that a considerably great amount of growth in all forms of energy is imminent (given the current installed capacity is around 7GW).
Why is it necessary to adopt Renewable Energy in Nigeria?
There are several benefits of Renewable Energy including the fact that it enables a robust energy mix that is essential to having a reliable power supply. Renewable energy options like solar are also considered to be the most sustainable since history and science has shown us that the Sun will likely continue to shine on earth for several generations to come. Other externalities include job creation, environmental and health improvement, energy security, forward-thinking governance and grid reliability. Consideration for these socio-economic factors should naturally make renewable energy prioritization and fossil fuel divestment a plausible idea for economic revival and growth.
What are the hindrances to Renewable Energy growth in Nigeria?
On a macro scale, the main problem perceived is a generally slow understanding/education of the fundamentals and trends of renewable energy harvesting. Until very recently, the financial evaluations on the cost-benefit comparisons between conventional fossil fuel technologies versus emerging renewable energy technologies have always ordinarily closed off to the conclusion that the latter is not ripe for commercial uptake because of its higher cost as an emerging technology. But in today’s world, when taking a closer look at the learning curves of those emerging technologies in only the last decade, you would find that the much dreaded costs have declined at rather steep rates and the “future” that was speculated on for a later time, is already here. There is also the issue of unfavourable foreign exchange rates in Nigeria that masks the affordability of these technologies, which is not manufactured locally (if at all) at a desired scale. Finally, the uncontrolled and rather convenient exploration/exploitation of and dependance on fossil fuels across the oil-soaked nation heavily clouds the importance for alternative energy options.
There are also few fundamental constraints unique to off-grid renewable energy technologies. For example, solar energy for household electricity consumption is limited by generally poor consumer affordability, limited area/space for solar panel system installation and possible sunlight obstruction from surrounding tall buildings.
Are there feasible solutions to Nigeria’s power challenges?
Theoretically and logically, there are a number of solutions that could work, but the re-orientation of the thinking of all stakeholders from investors and policy makers down to retailers and consumers, serves as the foundation to all solutions that exist. Investors need to be more strategic and optimistic, public officers need to think farther into the future, Energy providers (GenCos, TransCos and DisCos) need to exercise compliance more diligently and consumers (the most important of the value-chain) need to be true to their energy needs and adherent to legal obligations. A reliable electricity business is one with zero-tolerance for non-compliance and an all-round change in attitude is extremely important to achieve the law and order the sector needs.
Adoption of renewable energy solutions is one of many important considerations towards achieving sustainable energy for all and it can only materialize through the renewing of all minds and forms of energy, towards positive growth.