13 July 2017

Nigeria: Renewable Energy and Nigeria's Place in the Scheme of Things

Nigeria through its minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, on Monday announced the commencement of the first solar power project in Nigeria, the 1.2megawatts solar power plant in the lower Usuma Dam, Bwari, Abuja. The pronouncement is coming at a time when the world is gone very far in the development of renewable energy. FESTUS OKOROMADU, in this report unveils the need to drive this initiative further.

The pronouncement of the chief executive officer (CEO) of Royal Dutch Shell, Mr Ben Van Beurden, on the company's plan to spend as much as $1 billion a year on its New Energies division as the transition toward renewable power and electricity cars accelerates.

Van Beurden's speech brought to the fore, the transformation already taking place in the renewable energy subsector in the industrialised world while Nigeria is still yet to provide electricity for its teeming population.

There is no doubt that the world is moving towards renewable energy as the fuel of the future, Nigeria is said to be abundantly endowed with all it takes to excel in this venture.

As the Shell CEO said at the World Petroleum Conference in Istanbul on Monday that "In some parts of the world we are beginning to see battery electric cars starting to gain consumer acceptance while wind and solar costs are falling fast."

He described the development as good news for the world and must be accelerated, stressing that it still offers opportunities for producers of fossil fuels.

Shell sees opportunities in hydrogen fuel-cells, liquefied natural gas and next-generation biofuels for air travel, shipping and heavy freight -- areas of transport for which batteries aren't adequate. The intermittent nature of wind and solar energy means power plants fired by natural gas will have a long-term role, Van Beurden said.

Meanwhile, Nigeria according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) chief sub-regional officer, Mr Bakary Dosso, is home to enormous energy resources such as petroleum, natural gas, coal, nuclear power and tar sands. He identified other resources to include solar, wind, biomass and hydropower.

He however, added that despite these enormous resources, the country has failed to tapped same even when undergoing epileptic power supply making her not only one of the harshest business environments under the globe but also very uncompetitive.

According to some analyst, Nigeria has an estimated 93,950 megawatts of untapped energy sources which if preparedly utilised, would definitely help improve the economy as well as ensure national productivity and growth.

But unlike, Van Beurden who can foresee the potential in the emerging cleaner energy mix, those saddled with the responsibility of running government-owned enterprises now dominating the sector fail to see the same.

But until operators of the various segments of the energy sector think along the perspective of the Shell CEO who said, "When you consider the areas of the world where energy demand is still to expand, like Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, there is a huge opportunity.

"These are areas that are not, on the whole, locked in to a coal-driven system. There is the potential for them to shift more directly onto a less energy-intensive pathway to development."

Other Africa Countries Initiatives

In early June, three African countries won the African renewable energy projects totalling US$7million Access Co-Development Facility competition.

According to the organisers of the competition, Access Power and EREN Renewable Energy, the three winning projects, hailed from Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. Unfortunately, the winners were said to have been selected from a technologically and geographically diverse pool of 82 entrants from 23 countries, no Nigerian enterprise made the list. This perhaps may not be unconnected to the nation's poor performance in the sector.

According to the executive chairman of Access Power, Reda El Chaar, the three winners were selected from a technologically and geographically diverse pool of 82 entrants from 23 countries after having been presented to a live panel of industry expert judges.

Adding that the panel based their final selection on the commercial, technical and environmental merits of the projects presented, as well as the local regulatory environment and capability of the project teams.

"The winners will share the $7 million pot provided by the Access Co-Development Facility as well as technical support and expertise.

"This year's winners are Tanzania: 30MW, Kondoa, Solar PV project; Rwanda: 9.7MW, Rukarara, Hydro project and Ghana: 48MW, Winneba, Wind project. When completed, the projects will collectively provide over 85MW of electricity, enough to power more than 420,000 homes and business across Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana.

"We are very excited to begin working with today's winners in partnership with EREN and help bring their projects to fruition. Each of these projects has the power to dramatically improve the lives of the communities around these renewable energy facilities.

"By partnering with us, these local entrepreneurs will gain access to not only our pot of $7 million but also our network of contacts and technical experts, underlining the unique nature of the ACF in creating a clear route to market," he said.

Empowering African Enterprises

As a means of further encouraging growth of renewable energy entrepreneurs, the winning projects enter the Joint Development Agreements with Access Power, who will take an equity stake. In addition, winners will leverage on Access Power's organisational, financial and technical knowledge, as well as access to our network.

They will also receive assistance with the funding of third-party development costs including feasibility studies, grid studies, environmental and social impact assessments and due diligence fees. Thus, offering them the much needed financial and technical competence to make further advancement in the market.

Total Nigeria's Proposal

The managing director/CEO, Total Upstream Companies in Nigeria, Mr Nicolas Terraz, on Tuesday in Abuja revealed that his company was currently in discussions with some northern state governments concerning investment in solar projects in the region.

The CEO, who stated this while on a courtesy visit to the Borno State governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, noted that the investment would not only help in addressing the power situation in the region but would help provide employment opportunity for the teeming population.

"The multinationals appears to take the lead in this new initiative, it is believed that both government and the private sector will key into it now before the world lives us behind again," he stated.

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