13 July 2016
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is endowed with almost all energy sources – hydrocarbons, fossil fuel, thermal, solar, wind, coal, nuclear, name it.
The challenge, however, is the absence of the political will and dearth of technology to fully exploit the resources.
Notwithstanding its large oil and gas deposits making it the world’s 10th oil province and 7th gas province, and also its other energy sources, Nigeria still experiences acute energy shortages as there is also the colossal absence of an energy mix.
Some factors that have been adduced for the challenge in the power sector include the absence of workable framework to drive incentives for private sector investments and outright corruption.
Poor maintenance of thermal plants, inadequate gas supply occasioned by incessant pipeline vandalism, lack of adequate transmission infrastructure, tariff issues, among other challenges, bedevil the sector.
These factors have resulted in large proportion of Nigerians not having access to energy over the years, while those who have access have been experiencing epileptic supplies.
Another problem that has been identified is the centralised system where virtually every stakeholder that generates power must feed same to the national grid for national transmission and distribution.
The result has been that transmission and distribution hiccups have denied those getting supply from the national grid, a steady supply, while those not connected to the national grid are consigned to total darkness.
Nigeria’s electricity consumption per capita is put at 150kwH whilst that of Pakistan, a country with a similar population of about 180 million is 450kwH.
Singapore that got her independence the same period as Nigeria in the 1960’s has an electricity consumption per capita of about 8,400kwH, while Kuwait, a fellow oil-rich country like Nigeria has an electricity consumption per capital of 16,122kwH.
These countries are way ahead of Nigeria in terms of economic development; many thanks to sustainable energy supply.
Nigeria’s current energy challenge, however, presents the government an opportunity to sustainably exploit its abundant renewable energy resources as great opportunities exist today for a paradigm shift in the energy sector.
These include, but not limited to renewable energy in off-grid areas, new biofuel opportunities, new energy storage devices, new distribution systems and new energy transport modules.
Lending his voice to the call for alternative source of energy, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, said that diversification of energy sources, decentralisation of electricity transmission and review of relevant electricity Acts were measures to tackle challenges in the power sector.
“We need to diversify more, the sources of our power generation; licences have been issued for the exploitation of alternative sources, but these alternative sources are not being developed.
“We have coal; we have renewables and many of them are not being looked into,” he noted.
He said it was important for government to review the Electricity Power Reform Act 2005 in line with international best practice of the electricity value chain.
Adenikinju also suggested the decentralisation of electricity transmission given the vast number of electricity consumers in the country.
Recently at a meeting with solar promoters, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said reviving the 16 solar power projects across the country would add 1,300megawatts to the nation’s generation capacity.
He said that reviving the solar plants would be beneficial for the nation’s energy mix, adding that the inability of the solar projects to advance over the years was due to lack of bankable Power Purchase Agreements.
Given the vulnerable nature of the nation’s electricity sector to attacks, analysts claim that solutions to the numerous problems in the sector may not be in view.
But Fashola at a news forum stated that Nigeria could generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity once the challenges confronting the power sector were addressed.
He said that in spite of the challenges, Nigeria still had the ability to advance its power generation, transmission and distribution through renewable sources.
“So let us understand that power can be delivered today. If pressure returns to our system; we will go back to over to 5,000mw, but that will not be enough for everybody; but the situation will improve drastically,’’ he said.
He added that the adoption of renewable energy sources, regular maintenance of power plants and repair work done at the transmission stations were processes needed to improve electricity supply.
“The important thing is to identify the areas that are much more efficient and prolific for one energy source than the other. Gas for the South and the Niger Delta, Coal for South-East, Solar for the North.
“If we do that, it means that ultimately power will get cheaper.
“What we are thinking about is long-term solution. We need a solution that will endure for generations to come,’’ he stressed.
Energy experts also believe that continued losses of energy through poor transmission and distribution would continue to challenge delivery.
They are of the view that identified renewable energy resources could help to meet current energy challenges, noting that energy could be easily distributed through off-grid and decentralised plants.
To this end Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo told the Africa Development Bank Annual General Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia that 45 per cent of the world’s population with no access to power are from Africa and almost half of that African share are in Nigeria.
Osinbajo who spoke on the theme: “Energy and Climate Change’’, said African leaders should give priority to urgent matters of development, including the use of fossil fuels and coal to generate power.
According to him, “We are faced with a very dire situation and in most of Africa we simply don’t have power and without power there is very little that can be done.”
He said that the importance of renewable energy could not be downplayed, noting that Nigeria is an example of a major hydrocarbon-rich country that have not gotten it right.
“We have to leverage all that we can get from fossil fuel, coal is also important,’’ he said.
He said that the arguments about renewable energy as alternative sources of energy was important, noting that Nigeria has the capacity for it and would embrace solar energy.
Given the clamour for alternative energy sources, it is important to note that more financial investments are required to explore renewable energy in Nigeria.
The current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari must place emphasis on utilising the budgetary provision allocated to the power sector to develop a virile energy mix.
This can be done by sourcing the right technologies required to hone the small-scale renewable projects that can quickly deliver energy to Nigerians, especially to the rural dwellers.
Until Nigeria is able to address the problem of its huge electricity deficit, its economy will not look northward.