Today, it is widely known that for a nation like Nigeria, diversifying energy supply and reducing dependence on imported fuels, generating energy that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels will greatly spur economic growth, development, jobs, increase the living standard of the people and further help businesses reduce excessive cost.
Mr Mark Obisesan, a renewable energy expert and a public affairs analyst, recently shared his views and gleamed more light on the growth prospects of renewable energy for Nigeria and Nigerians.
What led your foray into renewable energy in Nigeria?
Several years ago, I tried to set up a small factory somewhere in Kwara State to produce bottled water. It was a tough experience as we had to run the factory on a diesel engine. This drove the cost of overheads so high that it swallowed up most of the profits.
It was that experience that opened my eyes to the importance of cheap and steady power supply. But while my business struggled from inadequate power supply, the host community were in a more difficult situation. They hardly had power to charge their phones or to even run small businesses. It was almost like they were completely shut out of the world. Their experience got me thinking about how we can solve the challenges of electricity in Nigeria. That was how I stumbled on how to use renewable energy to solve Nigeria’s electricity shortages after an extensive research.
What kind of opportunities exist with renewable energy in Nigeria?
The opportunities that renewable energy provides in Nigeria are limitless. You must first realize that over 80 million Nigerians lack access to electricity, according to a world bank report. Our ability to use renewable energy to provide affordable electricity for these 80 million Nigerians will drastically boost the productivity of millions of Nigerians.
This gap in supply also provides a market opportunity for entrepreneurs like me to create value and profit from such value creation.
Furthermore, we will need to create thousands of decent jobs to effectively take advantage of the opportunity. In other words, there will be employment opportunities for young Nigerians, opportunities for the government to raise more taxes and an enabling environment for more small businesses to thrive.
Are there any policy hurdles you envisage?
The biggest challenge currently facing the power sector is too much interference from the government. On one hand, the government claims it has privatized the power sector (GENCOS & DISCOS) but has continued to regulate the pricing. This makes it difficult for the Discos to profit from their investments which further discourages private capital from coming into the sector.
However, in terms of renewable energy, the absence of a robust policy from the federal government has been largely responsible for the slow pace of adoption. The initial costs (especial solar and wind) are quite high and the government may need to find areas of intervention to ensure that the cost of providing such electricity remains low.
The government may also seek to reduce the cost of land where large installations of solar panels are made so as to also drive down the cost of electricity. There are several other ways that the government, by way of policy, can support the development of renewable energy in Nigeria.
Is renewable energy sufficient to solve the current power challenges in the country?
The potential of renewable energy in Nigeria is limitless. Studies have shown that solar thermal power alone can potentially generate 427,000MW, whereas Nigeria currently generates less than 13,000MW. This does not mean renewable energy can solve all of Nigeria’s electricity challenges, it can, however, boost access to electricity for Nigerians especially those living in rural communities. Surely, renewable energy will help to complement our generating capacity and grant several more Nigeria access to electricity supply.
What does the future hold for renewable energy in Nigeria?
The future of renewable energy in Nigeria is filled with prospects. The growing demand for electricity in Nigeria is forcing citizens to seek alternatives and better options for electricity. This demand will certainly spur the need for renewable energy.
More so, the global clamour for clean energy and the funding available for investment in renewable energy will certainly make it attractive to entrepreneurs and policymakers in the near future.
For me, I’m taking a huge bet on the fact that the future of electricity supply in Nigeria is pointing towards renewable energy.
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