The Renewable Energy Global Status report showed that by the end of 2011, total renewable power capacity worldwide exceeded 1,360 Giga Watt (GW), up to 8 per cent over what it was in 2010. The report added that renewable energy supply constituted more than 25 per cent of total global power-generating capacity, which is estimated at 5,360GW in 2011. Juliet Alohan writes on the crucial need for its prioritisation in Nigeria
It is estimated that about 60 per cent of Nigerians, especially those living in the rural areas are currently unconnected to the national grid.While the on-going reforms in the power sector is designed to ensure that electricity is delivered to all Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas who constitute a greater percentage of those without power, experts have said this cannot be achieved without proper mix of all the energy sources.
It is estimated that by the year 2022, about two million unemployed Nigerians would be gainfully employed if renewable energy is introduced now to complement regular electricity supply.
Speaking during the 2nd Renewable Energy Investment Forum organised by the Bank of Industry and the United Nations Development Programme (BoI/UNDP), in Abuja, the project Manager of the joint forum, Mr. Segun Adaju, said the project would involve a business chain where many people would be fully involved for gainful employment.
Adaju who said the project was in furtherance of UNDP's support to private sector development for micro, small and medium scale enterprises, explained that the renewable energy will provide power through solar, water, and biomass.
He said that Nigerians currently spend an estimated $11 billion annually on energy generation through the usage of generators, while all what is needed for the sustainable energy in the country is about $16 billion. "That is why we are calling on Nigerians to harness these resources for the full operation of renewable energy," the expert said.
Against this background, the Minister of State for Power, Zainab Kuchi, has outlined off-grid renewable energy projects as part of areas that will get priority attention going forward. She said the ministry was in the process of finalising renewable energy policy.
Kuchi who stated this in the sector's update report presented to the Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACP) recently, said transaction advisers have been appointed for concession of small and medium hydro projects.
She said the 40MegaWatt (MW) Kashimbilla hydro power plant would be completed this year while a grant agreement for 800KW solar plant in Katsina has been signed with JICA of Japan. She however, stated that the 10MW Katsina wind farm which is ready for commissioning was facing security challenge.
The minister explained that the diversification of energy mix to include renewables was part of plans to achieve 10,000MW of generation capacity by the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2013. She also stressed that the ministry would be focusing on rural access to electricity as well as source ways of funding power transmission development projects outside budgetary provisions, while also adding that the ministry would strive to stimulate investment in the sector by fostering bilateral relations.
Kuchi explained that following President Goodluck Jonathan's "directive at the last PACP, the power sector has focused on forging and strengthening systems that are well connected in terms of personnel and operations. To this end, targets were set for the generation, transmission and distribution companies.
This has culminated in the signing of performance contract documents between the ministry, agencies and our commissions in December 2012. The signing of these documents prepares the sector for the post-privatisation era to ensure affective management and optimum service delivery."
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Mr. Kennet Achugbu, has assured that the reforms being put together by the federal government would ensure that electricity gets to all Nigerians as they are entitled to it. He said the roadmap would not only ensure availability of electricity, but that affordable electricity is delivered to all Nigerians irrespective of their location.
Achugbu who noted that funding was a challenge to address the electricity supply gap in the country, however, explained that the agency was working hard within its budgetary provision to ensure that communities without electricity are connected to the grid.
"Funding is a major challenge because there are several needs facing the government but provision of adequate and affordable electricity is a priority for this government. Everybody in Nigeria is entitled to affordable electricity especially those in the rural areas. Government is aware of this and actions are being taken.
"The reform of the sector is on course and very shortly, Nigerians will see the difference. Power plays a big role in economic and social development of a nation and the government is working hard to achieve this," Achugbu who spoke on the side-lines ofhis conferment of a fellowship award by the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Abuja, stated.
He stressed that the REA would focus on planning with a view to getting rural communities connected to the national grid to boost economic activities in the rural areas.