21 November 2012

Nigeria: 'FG Should Consider Subsidy for Alternative Power Sources'


Lagos — Mr. Adetola Adebanjo is the Chief Marketing Officer of Stormberg Power Ltd. In this interview, he says solar power as energy source deserves subsidy from the government to move the sector forward. Excerpts.

What is your assessment of Nigeria's power sector?

Nigeria's power sector has performed below expectations in recent years despite the heavy investments. The unavailability of constant power supply has hindered people's empowerment. With a population in excess of 150 million people, about 3,700MW of electricity generated is grossly inadequate and unacceptable.

In your view, what are Nigeria's power problems?

In my opinion, our main issues can be attributed to monopoly in the sector, expanding without expansion capabilities, obsolete technologies, lack of maintenance culture, and corruption.

Do you think the country's power problems can be fixed?

Yes it can. For instance, the privatization by the federal government is a welcome development. However, this alone cannot alleviate the power problems facing Nigeria. There is the need for all facets of the sector to embrace adequate planning, setting of achievable targets, investment in alternative sources of energy and accountability.

What is the role of alternative energy sources in all these?

As Nigeria is an emerging economy, alternative energy would have a favourable effect on the country as a whole. The government can initiate policies to drive down cost of energy technologies, research and development and manufacturing incentives that can make these technologies more affordable to the populace. Furthermore, new energy models (like on grid system) can be introduced and business ventures that would attract companies looking to access this alternative energy market created.

Do you think Nigerians have been responsive in the adoption of solar energy as alternative power source?

Most Nigerians don't understand the concept of using the sun to generate their electricity. We at Stormberg Power are working to create public awareness of the technology and how it can be easily deployed by the populace.

What could be done to encourage the adoption of solar technology?

Firstly, we need to understand solar can work in Nigeria. I have heard from a lot of people that it cannot work in this state or that state. We are blessed with more sunlight than leading solar usage countries. That has been clarified, as a technology in its infancy, adequate awareness/education is key in encouraging solar adoption.

Many people either haven't heard of solar or are not overtly convinced of its potentials. Some see the huge capital investment cost as a major deterrent but proper education, inclusive of fact-based report like cost benefit analysis, go a long way in combating such fears.

Does government have any role to play in this regard?

They are the major players. The government needs to create incentive/subsidy packages to encourage the early players in the industry. This could be in form of solar import tax rebates, net metering packages etc.

What is your assessment of the current privatization exercise of PHCN?

Privatization of PHCN is the right step in ensuring deregulation. However, the ability of the selected companies to provide power as needed by the populace is yet to be seen.

How has it been doing business in Nigeria, and what are your challenges?

Nigerians are generally scared of change. In order to achieve change, we have to give up a lot of things which we deemed the norms. For instance, it has been hard convincing people to ditch their generating sets for a hazard free hybrid system. In our line of business, it is a continual process educating the populace on the advantages of a green economy. Patience has been our keyword as we continually strive to light up Nigeria.

What is your firm's investment plan in the next five years?

At Stormberg, we strive to be innovators in our industry. We plan to continually invest in research and development and training of our staffs to continually compete in this ever shrinking global world.

How long have you been in Nigeria and how many countries do you have presence?

We have been in Nigeria for over two years and have been privileged to execute various projects across Nigeria. Stormberg Power has been at the forefront of promoting the use of solar energy in Nigeria. The company's range of solar- powered products offering includes power systems, streetlights, traffic and garden lights. We are currently working on expanding our services to West African countries. Our ultimate goal is to be the leading energy provider in Africa.

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