There is a very strong case for renewable energy resources in emergent nations. Indeed, Ecuador is already at nearly 100% of its energy requirements from these sources. It can be argued that most renewable energy requires a higher capital investment initially but the costs associated with generation and maintenance over the lifetime of the systems are marginal. As such, they are economically viable especially in developing nations. Given that fossil fuel reserves are finite, there is a strong case to hasten to development of alternative and cleaner energy.
Renewable energy is that derived from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.
Renewable supplies can replace conventional fuels in four distinct areas: electricity generation, motor fuels, air and water heating or cooling, and rural energy services. Renewable energy is a primary method to tackle the challenges of greenhouse emissions and climate change.
Renewable Energy for Nigeria
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa”, owing to its large population and economy. With approximately 174 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world.
Nigeria is a large Oil producer. It has a maximum crude oil production capacity of 2.5 million barrels per day. Nigeria ranks as Africa’s largest producer of oil and the sixth or seventh largest oil producing country in the world. Nigeria would appear to have a greater potential for gas than oil.
The Oil industry accounts for about 14% of Nigeria’s economy. The petroleum sector is important. However, it remains a small part of the country’s overall vibrant and diversified economy. Nigeria’s foreign exchange is heavily dependent on the oil sector, which accounts for majority of its export revenues.
It does not have enough oil refineries. If the four that are existing were running at full capacity, they could only supply a quarter of the country’s needs. As a result the bulk of refined petroleum products are imported and the cost of Gasoline and Diesel is comparatively high when compared to domestic wages.
The use of renewable energy in Nigeria especially hydroelectricity, solar energy and wind is very low. The Governments own targets are also set low (about 7% by 2020), why this should be is not clear as the potential for renewable energy is extensive. Yet renewable energy is not a new concept to Nigeria. The Kainji Dam was built across the Niger River in Niger State of western Nigeria and work began in 1964 to be completed in 1968. It was never built to its full capacity for reasons that are not clear, but further turbines could be added in the future as the Dam has spare capacity.
The existing installed capacity of Hydroelectric power plants and those planned to come on stream could account for roughly 13,000 MWh of generating capacity. This is still a very low contribution from this source. Nigeria is suffering a serious energy crisis. Domestic power plants are basically dilapidated, some almost obsolete, generally unreliable and in an appalling state of disrepair. The country needs an estimated 26,000 GWh annually at current rates, with development and an expanding population, this trend is upward.
Nigeria has taken away control of electricity from what used to be the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA – also jokingly known as “No Electric Power Again” to the native Nigerians), and in effect privatised the industry. The Federal Government established the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN – the initial holding company) and subsequently unbundled it into eighteen successor companies.
The objective of this was to encourage Private Investment into the Industry and improve efficiency and reliability of supplies. However, there is much to be done. The grid system is basic and long transmission lines are very lossy, even at high voltage. There is little route diversity so a failure in the line can disconnect a large area of the Country from mains supplies. Nigeria is a vast Country so the logistics associated with Power Transmission are daunting to say the least.
Options for Nigeria
Nigeria has many options and much could be achieved with the will and investment to make these happen. The move toward Privatisation could well be the trigger for the development of the Power Industry. It is instructive to look at the raw input figures for Nigeria as a whole, which are not insignificant.
Nigeria receives abundant sunshine all year round ranging from 6.70kwh/m2/day in Borno State to roughly 4.06kwh/m2/day to 5.86kwh/m2/day in locations such as Calabar in Cross Rivers State. Solar Panels are not that efficient but even converting just 10% of that sunshine into power will make a significant contribution to secure and sustainable energy supply. There is plenty of room to accommodate Solar Farms and if the panels are installed in an elevated position it is possible to graze and shelter animals in the same land area.
Most of the Country has usable wind, if not for power but only for pumping irrigation water. Northern Nigeria has much better average wind speeds of 6 — 8m/s but parts of the South and mountainous Centre are in the same range. Wind turbines generally require wind speeds of 4 m/s to operate well.
The concept of a micro-grid is useful in connecting generating plant and communities together. Using a number of smaller systems in the grid can improve reliability and ensure that the system works even if a part of it has failed. Shorter transmission lines and lower voltages can reduce costs and increase reliability considerably.
There are technical issues to be overcome. The wind does not always blow, and the sun can vary in intensity in any given day. A well planned and properly scaled system can be designed to accommodate a base load and provide reliable power in rural areas. It may be necessary to use a fossil fuel prime mover in places to supply the base load but modern storage battery technology and efficient inverters may also be an effective solution.
The Future for Nigeria
The practice of exporting oil and then re-importing refined petroleum products is not economically viable, even if the Oil lasts forever, which it clearly will not. It is time to consider renewable energy as a viable alternative to ensure that energy security is maintained for future generations and the economic development of Nigeria may be maintained.
Azees Ishola is an online blogger and a freelance writer for Energymixreport. Energymixreport is one of the leading Nigeria news source with publications covering oil and gas industry for business, renewable energy, environmental and government news.