By Ayodele Olalere
The use of solar power as alternative energy supply has gained momentum all over the world because it is safe and does not produce waste materials that are hazardous to health. It is also pollution free, unlike nuclear energy. In most developed countries and in some parts of Africa, most manufacturing enterprises including residential complexes, schools, and offices are now solar-powered for efficient and cheap supply of energy especially in India, Germany and Denmark.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria as most activities necessary for economic growth and development suffer from inadequate and unpredictable power supply. The multiplier effects of this scenario are mostly felt by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and other industries that depend on 24-hour power supply for their operations. A high percentage of their profit is used to source for diesel to power their standby electricity generators. A recent comparative analysis of power generation capacity and supply between Nigeria and South Africa indicates that Nigeria can only provide 12,522MW of electricity with an output of about 5,074MW to serve its over 200 million people. South Africa on the other hand with a population of 52.4 million people generates 45,000MW capacity and 35,819MW for its populace.
It will be recalled that when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in May 2015, one of his priorities was to eliminate the challenges militating against adequate power supply for Nigerians that has caused perpetual darkness all over the nation. However, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, former Minister of Power, at every opportunity gave the impression that Nigeria now generates more power than its distributive capacity; apparently unaware of the discordance in policy and implementation which he sought to highlight.
In one of its reports, the Federal Government of Nigeria stated that power generation had increased to about 7,000MW in 2017 from 3,000MW as at May 2015; transmission capacity at 6,900MW in 2017 from about 5,000MW in May 2015; peak distribution averaged 5,000MW in 2017 from 2,690MW in 2015.”
To most Nigerians, these figures have not been visibly felt in most homes and industries. Nigerians are not amused about the pressures of power supply; all they clamour for is 24 hours of affordable electricity supply. They desire power supply solution and usage that can be controlled just like what is obtainable with mobile phones which users can recharge depending on capacity. “Crazy” bills that consumers are forced to pay by DISCOs for electricity not supplied have become a national issue.
The way out
The mode of electricity supply by DISCOs is no longer sustainable in Nigeria. Nigeria can’t afford to look away from the solar energy innovation at a time when the rest of the world is exploring alternative sustainable energy which is the future and most reliable source of power generation.
Mr. Arthur Ottor, Group Managing Director and Solar Energy Specialist at Ottor Global Services, Nigeria and Ottor Global GmbH, Germany stated that ‘clean and affordable energy for everyone is the biggest challenge of our time. Nigerians don’t have to pay more for dirty power when they can save thousands with clean solar energy,” he said.
He added: “Imagine saving billions of Naira over the next 20 years or more; imagine getting these savings simply by using a different source of electricity; imagine letting an industry-leading energy company handle everything for you and imagine the source of that electricity is clean, renewable, and sustainable.”
He said further, “Nigeria has the advantage because abundant sunlight in the northern parts of the country which result in solar X-ray at 7.0Kw.m2/day and readings in the coastal areas soar to an average of 3.5 kw.m2/day. We could generate over 900,000MW by investing and installing Thin Film Solar Panel from just one percent of our landmass, no wonder solar costs less.”
“To be honest, nothing could stop Nigeria from diversifying into solar energy like Germany that pays people to use electricity. Do you know that the Nigerian government can also pay Nigerians to use electricity if heavily invested into? All we need is to learn and follow Germany solar innovation footprints,” Ottor further said.
Insight into why Germany pays people to use electricity
On Sunday, May 8, 2018 Germany produced so much electric power that prices were actually negative. Customers got paid to use the electrical system. The crazy high energy production was due to an especially sunny windy day in the European nation, meaning that wind farms and solar panels were able to make even more renewable power than usual, Quartz reported.
In total, 87% of the power generated in Germany was made possible through the use of solar, wind, and hydro and biomass plants during the day. The average percentage in 2019 was 33%. Presently, Germany is known to have a greater share of renewable energy every year all over the world. The country hopes to be at 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Due to the Germany record breaking effort in solar energy innovation, Ottor says his company is committed to providing unequaled and impeccable round-the-clock power supply via solar power generation to Nigeria and the entire West African sub-region in order to protect its environment and reduce dangerous emissions from greenhouse gas.
However, a small step such as installing solar panels in homes across the country can go a long way in helping to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint, leaving a better world for future generations. Therefore, for efficiency, Ottor said companies in Nigeria can partner with reputable solar manufacturing companies in Germany and other developed countries with diverse of “never seen before” technology solutions that incorporates the thin film panels and a set of inverters with memory.
According to him, this system makes the inclusion of stacks of batteries irrelevant. It enables the thin film panels extract sunlight during the day time, cloudy and even at night. Instead of storage to be done by batteries as in the conventional solar electricity generation system, energy is stored in the system’s memory which is ever ready to be used as at when due; hence it is called smart energy generation.
Policy, Politics and Environmental factors
Most of the nation’s affairs are politicized based on vested interests. It is a known fact that Nigeria’s Federal Government cannot fund diversification to solar energy alone, but if it exhibits the willingness and proactive in deploying its limited resources in this area, investors would buy into the idea.
If Nigeria must fulfill its National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy of 2015 (NREEEP), it needs to embrace responsibility to scale up the deployment of solar energy starting with public buildings, parks and streets, then expanding to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMES) across the country.
In fact, beyond setting the target of achieving 16% renewable energy consumption for Nigeria by year 2030 policies, FG needs to provide some decent incentives for the sector, including Free Custom duties for two years on the importation of renewable energy equipment; allows project developers to obtain soft loans from the Renewable Electricity Fund (REF); tax incentives/holidays to manufacturers of renewable energy products; and assist in allocation of land to manufacturers.
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the African Development Bank (AFDB) are ready to support and fund solar projects, but also help member states develop such bankable projects. Nigeria is apt for massive solar deployment and most individuals/businesses are already opting for home solar systems in the off-grid (stand-alone) space. Government should take advantages of these incentives to fulfill its Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ Goal 7 (Clean Energy). Government must act fast, take the lead and see solar energy as a long-term strategic bankable option. It is not a short term project, it must be planned for.