By Anthony Agbongiarhuoyi
Renewable energy is energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy replaces conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, air and water heating/cooling, motor fuels, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Renewable energy is one of the means of tackling the global challenges of climate change.
It is now being seen by many people around the world as a cost-effective development solution for developed countries and a developing country such as Nigeria. A report released by international development organisation Oxfam argues that renewable energy is in fact a more affordable energy source than coal for poor people in developing countries around the world. The report argues that as a result of the changing energy landscape around the world, the decreasing price of renewable energies, and the often remote location of the majority of people who don’t have access to electricity, renewable energy may actually offer a more reliable and effective energy source. According to the report of Dr Simon Bradshaw, “Four out of five people without electricity live in rural areas that are often not connected to a centralised energy grid, so local, renewable energy solutions offer a much more affordable, practical and healthy solution.
In Nigeria, there is rapid population growth, increase in industrial activities and more energy is consumed, resulting in environmental pollution and economic difficulties. There is need for renewable energy resources utilization globally. For example, the country has adequate fuel supplies (world’s sixth largest exporter of crude oil) yet more than 70 percent of its inhabitants do not have access to electricity for their domestic needs.
Renewable energy penetration in Nigeria is still in its nascent stage. It is below that of other widely known energy sources due to technological and economic drawbacks, in addition to deep rooted policy inertia. The only source of renewable energy in the country is hydro-power and biomass; wind and solar energy have only been deployed in minuscule amount. Hydroelectric power plants with installed capacity and those coming on stream cumulatively accounting for roughly 13,000MW. Nigeria faces serious energy crisis due to declining electricity generation from domestic power plants which are basically dilapidated, obsolete, and unreliable and in an appalling state of disrepair, reflecting the poor maintenance culture in the country and gross inefficiency of the public utility provider.
Solar energy in Nigeria is majorly used in urban areas for street lighting, while in some rural areas it is used for irrigation project and water pumping. The country has a target in 2007 to produce 7% of its 2025 energy needs from renewable with solar and hydro as the major priority.
According to a report by Charles Opara-Ndudu in Thisday Newspaper of 15th March 2015, Nigeria has the potential to exploit its abundant solar energy resources considering its geographic location around the equatorial sun-belt. The country receives abundant sunshine all year round ranging from 6.70kwh/m2/day in Borno State to roughly 4.06kwh/m2/d to 5.86kwh/m2/d in locations such as Calabar in Cross Rivers State.
The Federal Capital Territory has a daily horizontal solar radiation ranging from a high of 6.07/kwh/m2/d to a low of 4.42/kwh/m2/d during the month of August. This level of solar radiation across the country can support huge deployment of solar power infrastructures designed to primarily feed in to the regional power distribution entities. The size of the area currently occupied by the insurgents in Borno State can supply sufficient power required by the entire country if well harnessed. Despite the glaring economic constraints of solar power generation, its limited competitiveness, a low capacity factor, in addition to high cost of PV cells, renewable power sources mainly solar power development can support peak time energy consumption and can add considerable capacity directly to the national grid or embedded network of distribution enclaves.
In fact, Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of the Renewable Energy Network for the 21st Century, noted that “last year, for the first time in 40 years, economic and emissions growth have decoupled”. The Renewable Energy Network was recently responsible for producing a global study of renewable energy growth over the last 10 years. What they find now, is quite surprising, even to its authors. “If you look back 10 years ago, Renewable energies were providing 3 per cent of global energy, and now, they provide something close to 22 per cent, so that has really sky-rocketed” noted Christine. This is being led most obviously by countries like Uruguay, which aims to generate 90% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, and Costa Rica, which maintained 100% renewable energy generation for the first 100 days of this year.
These countries are not alone and are fast becoming the normal rather than the ‘alternative’. Even small developing countries such as Burundi, Jordan and Kenya are leading the world in investments in renewable energies as a percentage of GDP.
Worldwide investments in renewable technologies amounted to more than US$214 billion in 2013, with countries like China and the United States heavily investing in wind, hydro, solar and biofuels. In the USA, the Obama administration has made significant progress at encouraging investment in solar power. A number of policies both at state and federal levels have been adopted to support investment in the sector. These include the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Public Benefit Fund for Renewable Energy (PBFRE), Output Based Environmental Regulation as well as Feed-in Tariffs and other financial incentives. At the end of 2014, USA have installed solar capacity in excess of 15 GW with a huge majority deployed in the last five years. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA), the U.S. installed 1,133 megawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) in the second quarter of 2014 alone. Between 2012 and 2014, the grid connected utility segment quadrupled its cumulative size, growing from 1,784 megawatts in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 megawatts today.
In Nigeria there is need for the Federal government to look at existing policies on renewable, energy take full advantage of it to boost her power generating capacity. This has become necessary in view of its great roles to our national development. We all know that the issue of power utilization is very sacrosanct to the socio-economic and technological growth of Nigeria. It is good to observe that many electricity consumers in Nigeria are now gradually shifting from high energy consuming electric bulbs to low energy saving bulbs in most residential and commercial outfits. In the power sector, a reasonable improvement could be made through investment in renewable energy by collaborating with relevant private organizations and international bodies. Government must play a useful role in promoting renewable energy technologies by initiating surveys and studies to establish their potential in both urban and rural areas.
The Indian and Chinese governments have pursued vigorously policies to encourage deployment of grid connected solar power plants while the UK government through the introduction of the Renewable Obligation (RO) policy, designed to provide incentives and encourage investment in renewable energy projects has made considerable progress in this respect also. This novel policy by the UK government came into effect in 2002 and makes it mandatory for electricity suppliers, such as the distribution companies (DISCOS) we have in Nigeria, to procure certain amount of electricity from renewable sources.
The benefits of adopting renewable energy are multifarious. The use of renewable energy is renewable and sustainable and will never run out. It is constantly being replenished from natural resources. They have security of supply, unlike fossil fuels, which are negotiated on the international market and subjected to international competition, sometimes even resulting in wars and shortages. Renewable energy facilities generally require less maintenance than traditional generators. Their fuel being derived from natural and available resources reduces the costs of operation. Renewable energy business leads to job creation for thousands of people involved in it. For example, if there are 80 utility-scale solar energy projects that represent about 56,000 megawatts of new electric power that will mean about 20 thousand permanent jobs.
It is important that our governments take steps immediately to extend and expand the renewable energy sector of our country. Renewable energy is clean and pollution-free and is therefore a sustainable natural form of energy. Unlike the nuclear and fossil fuels plants which belong to big companies, governments, or state-owned enterprises. Renewable energy can be set up in small units and is suitable for community management and ownership. In Nigeria, this has particular relevance since the electricity grid does not extend to remote areas. The use of renewable energy will go a long way in providing light to many villages and semi towns.
Solar panels used for generating electricity.
The implementation of renewable energy technologies will help to address the environmental concerns that emerged due to greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), oxides of sulfur (SOx), and particulate matters as a result of power generation from oil, natural gas, and coal. A variety of renewable energy resources provide a flexible array of options for their use. Emissions from fossil fuels, for example, reach beyond the local and national levels to affect the global environment and contribute to climate change. The poorest people often live in the most ecologically sensitive and vulnerable physical locations. These areas may be the most affected by the predictable effects of climate change such as an increased frequency of extreme events, for example floods, drought, rising sea levels, and melting ice caps.
The risks facing poor people are often increased by the unsustainable use of biomass resources.
Solar energy for instance has the greatest potential to contribute enormous amount of low carbon energy in Nigeria through solar PV and solar thermal process. It may be transformed directly into heat using solar collectors or directly to electricity using solar PV cells. It is estimated that when 1% of Nigeria’s land area is covered with a solar technology of 5% efficiency, about 333,480MW of electricity may be produced at about 26% capacity factor. This electricity generation capacity will be more than enough for the country, up to 2050, that will conveniently support 11% -13% economic growth rates as envisioned by vision 20:2020.
Solar energy is capital intensive but it is an area we can explore to meet up with the energy needs of the Nigerian people. As a developing country, we can start from somewhere. All Federal, State and Local government schools, Colleges, Polytechnics, Universities and Ministries can adopt the use of solar energy. This could be achieved by devoting a certain percentage of their budget towards solar energy project. In the next 2 to 5 years, some improvement could be made that can take us to the next level.
The global #Call4Climate action and renewable energy through Climate Change Tracker Network is very timely. They have been doing a lot in their effort to reposition the world for good environment friendly energy sources. I am happy that some world leaders on climate change such as France, United States, Germany; United Kingdom etc are showing concern towards renewable energy and ending fossil fuels. The G7 meeting which took place on the 7 and 8th of June 2015 in Germany is a reference point. It is cheering news that President Muhammadu Buhari was in attendance among other member countries. I believe the wind of change going on in the country will bring positive effect to power sector which is part of government priorities. The ministry of power, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and the Energy Commission of Nigeria should develop proactive fiscal, regulatory and financial stimuli in collaboration with private sector organisations that will ensure a smooth take off of the nascent industry. We can learn from India, China and the Spanish models to evaluate how we can adapt workable framework from these countries to suit our peculiar circumstances in Nigeria.
For us to make any significant progress in developing our renewable energy potentials, we need to review existing policy initiatives and encourage investment in solar power generation. It has the potential to ultimately achieve national grid parity within two decades primarily from scale economies, research and improvement in technology.
Development policy should ensure that investors face minimal challenges when building and installing solar facilities. The national and state energy policy must include provision that places an obligation on regional distribution companies to purchase power from developers on preferential fixed term basis, incorporating a favourable feed-in tariff that will reflect the financial cost of energy units produced.
The use of renewable energy in Nigeria especially hydroelectricity, solar energy and wind is still at low extent. There is need to increase electricity supply to consumers through other sources apart from our conventional hydroelectricity. Efforts should be geared towards investments in solar and wind energy which does not cause harmful damage to our environment. Nigeria needs an energy policy which stresses the development of renewable energy resources and technology. The development of renewable energy services is linked to many other sectors such as agriculture, small scale industrial enterprises and poverty alleviation, thus it is recommended that, renewable energy related projects have a greater likelihood of success if implemented in tandem with activities in these sectors to ensure sufficient demand for the energy services providers.
Anthony E. Agbongiarhuoyi, is Research Scientist, Farming Systems Research and Extension Department Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) Ibadan : Email: email@example.com