Amidst the current established facts on the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy and the existence of climate change, it is pertinent that the the government should in addition to fixing the plants and boosting generation, also encourage private individuals, companies and corporate organizations etc. to generate power by themselves. Green policies should be a priority if a change is required.
Without doubt, the current power production can be made better by improving the current technology and maintenance. However, moves like these do not encourage the break free from fossil fuel consumption but only increase over reliance on them. The word from the government is always about the number of megawatts they will add to the National Grid at the end of the year. Nigerian citizens are, unfortunately, indirectly motivated by generation targets like these, which discourage them from sourcing alternative solutions to the incessant power problems.
In an unfortunate scenario last year, prior to the elections, the nation’s electricity generation dropped and there was an artificial scarcity of crude oil products. No much power transmitted and no gas to fuel the gas power plants. Companies like MTN and commercial banks like First Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank among many others bitterly complained about the absence of power to effectively run their machines and no fuel to power up their standby generators. The banks started closing two hours before normal time. MTN announced that if the power situation did not change, some communication masts will be shut down. Yet again, this has happened recently this year, with the inclusion of universities like the University of Lagos and many organizations following suit by closing their office doors earlier.
Companies like Google have made their power consuming data centres 50% more energy-efficient in a bid to become greener. Apple Inc. has 100% of its data centres run on renewable energy. Facebook data centres run on 25% renewable energy and have strategic plans to extend it to 50% by 2018. There are so many residences, organizations and small scale companies in the US and many other countries that are completely off the grid.
The move by people and companies to start going off the grid in Nigeria is unfortunately nothing to write home about, despite the established existence of climate change and Nigeria’s consent to COP21 agreement. Those in the power sector need to institutionalize a huge paradigm shift in the way residential, commercial, federal and state governments and nonprofit organizations generate power.
For example in the state of California in the United States, a programme called the Self-Generating Incentive Progroamme (SGIP) is put in place to encourage people to generate electricity on their own. They provide prescriptive and custom incentives to power consumers ranging from commercial, state government, federal government, nonprofit etc.
The incentives are provided for many types of interventions such as installation of renewable source of power, energy saving measures for high energy consuming categories such as lighting, air conditioners, chillers etc. The latter means that incentives are provided for people who upgrade their facilities to become energy-efficient.
In another programme, the Federal Housing Administration of the US provides incentives in form of loans to residential and owners to upgrade to power saving technologies. The loans start from as low as $7,500 with an interest rate of 4.99% to 9.99% for a maximum repayment period of 20 years. This programme has not only seen success in generating power for the primary producer, but many of them were able to start selling abundant supply to other consumers. Not to mention, it has created jobs in thousands for the people.
Demand for power is increasing daily and this is an announcement that power generation must increase. Many people have plans to build huge manufacturing plants and industries, on the hopes that power supply will increase. Dangote Cement Plc recently stated the commencement of setting up of two new cement factories in Nigeria. The company did not announce any plans of going green, but to stick to their gas and coal powered plants. There is no pronounced corporate social responsibility to go green owning to reasons such as high investment cost and the likes, perhaps.
The government can cushion the high capital expenditure by aiding companies like Dangote Group to start self-generating power and hope that they generate more than enough so they can sell to other consumers.
It almost sounds clichéd now to say Nigeria is endowed with enormous natural resources. But that is the truth. The dry and hot North is a gold mine of renewable energy sources. Solar, wind and perhaps geothermal energy can all be generated in this region that records an average mean monthly maximum temperature of 30°C and average monthly sunshine hours of about 235 hours, round the year. This is more than enough reason to build solar farms in order to harvest the solar energy in the region.
These are opportunities for regional innovation both large and small scale consumers can take advantage of. People, entrepreneurs and governments should start thinking of investment in renewable energy generation and governments should incentivize this paradigm shift.
The more we are trying to generate more power, the more factories and industries continue to surface and that will ultimately increases the power demand. Hence, it is fitting to start baiting people to make a switch to greener sources.
Innovation takes courage and belief. Solutions of increasing generation and providing incentives for going greener can be pursued together. The earlier green policies start taking effect in our economies, the better.
Blog written by:
Sadiq Abubakar Gulma steers the organizational mission of Green Habitat. He is a member of the Green Talents International Forum for High Potentials in Sustainable Development, a LEED accredited professional and has a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. His research interest and work lie in investigating and improving the thermal conditions of urban built environments. Follow him on Twitter @TheCivineer