‘Port Harcourt Electricity Company is reaping from energy efficiency scheme’

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While the Federal Government wants to meet its power supply needs through increasing its generating capacity for which N700billion was granted to the Gencos recently, a UK-trained energy efficiency expert, Franklin Ajaegbo, programme manager for Energy Efficiency in PHED, says much gap can be closed by massive reduction in consumption and waste through migration to incandescent lamps and other appliances. In an experiment carried out in Port Harcourt, a community that consumed 312 kilowatts per hour dropped to one third of that. In an exclusive interview with IGNATIUS CHUKWU in Port Harcourt, the expert warned the FG against massive dumping of outlawed appliances from Europe and America. He also called for a national campaign on energy efficiency and use of experts to draft pro-energy efficiency laws and policies in line with global trends.

What level of work have you covered in the area of ‘Energy Efficiency’ since we learnt that you worked in the UK doing that?

Energy Efficiency simply means using less energy to achieve the same results. For instance, we have various appliances in our various homes and offices. In bulbs, for instance, we have candescent bulbs that consume a lot of power; from 60 to 200 watts. We have energy-saving bulbs such as the LED (light emitting diode) and the CFL (compound fluorescent light) which consume less and give same result. They come from three watts to 12. If you remove a 100-watts bulb (incandescent) and replace it with 10 watts bulb, you have saved 90 watts and saved energy and bill for that month. If that bulb costs you N1000 per month in your energy bill, that means you have saved N900 and that is huge savings. This applies in other gadgets and appliances such as refrigerator, iron, heater, etc. So, the lesser the energy consumed, the lesser your bill for the month. In other words, you have to look out for the wattage of every appliance coming into your home or office; the higher the wattage, the higher the energy consumption and the higher the energy bill.

The bill coming has to be converted in kilowatts; and 1000 watts make up one kilowatt.

So, if you have 10 bulbs in your home, all 100 watts each, that makes 1000 watts, ok? The 1000 watts is one kilowatt. If you use it for one hour, that is one kilowatt per hour. You now multiply it with the rate for your grade. So, if you have a 4000 watts air-conditioner and use it for one hour; it gives you four units. Such appliances such as heater, washing machine, dryer, etc, consume a lot of energy. You have to be very cautious in terms of cost.

Energy efficiency is a global thing because it has a dual benefit, both to the customer and the energy supplier. It helps customers to reduce their bills while the supplier has surplus energy to sell to other users and reduce pressure on their distribution networks. If you have a small generator in your house and if you switch on a boiler, you will find pressure on the generator. That is how it happens to the transformers, feeders, etc. It leads to constant maintenance and damage of equipment in the system. These are part of the advantages of energy efficiency.

In addition to all these benefits, it reduces carbon emission (CO2) into the atmosphere and the world shows a lot of apprehension to this. In the next 10 years, you find out that fossil fuel will start fizzling out; France has set a date to phase it out, Germany has done the same. These energy consuming appliances and machines that contribute a lot of negative impacts on the environment will be phased out to introduce energy efficient appliances. This will lead to a huge reduction in energy consumption world-wide.

In Nigeria, there is yet to be proper regulation in energy efficiency such as MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards). This is the standard every appliance must attain before you bring it into a country such as Nigeria. Nigeria has to go into that, into what we call energy rating labeling which will tell you the rating of every appliance and the amount of energy it will consume and what energy it has saved previously. This is the information the buyer will find. You find out that some air-conditioners will take as much as 8000 watts whereas there are some energy-saving air-conditioners that take just 800 watts and do the same work and save a lot of energy. These are some of the things customers will need to know.

There are also behavioral aspects of energy; it is about people learning to switch off their lights when not in use, just as we are required to turn off the knob of your phone after making a call. People leave their security lights on in the day. That is huge waste of money because somebody will have to pay for them. In addition, there are people that require that energy you are wasting. Right now in Nigeria, supply level is far below the demand level, so there is huge need to save energy.

Energy Efficiency can be used as energy resource. For instance, the power used by one 200-watts bulb can be used by 10 people. On a cumulative basis, what one person was using before energy efficiency system per day can be used by 10 households at the same time. Now, Discos can supply more power to customers and it will help boost power supply. In Nigeria today, the minimum wage is about N18,000 per month and if divided by daily basis, it will show that some persons in Nigeria are actually living below the poverty line. So, energy efficiency scheme can help them manage their energy bill. You could cut down from N5,000 to N1,500. You will find it difficult to handle more than N5,000 bill.

Wonderful! How did you come across this rare knowledge?

Thank you very much. Prior to joining PHED, I studied in the UK, a course-related to energy efficiency and I worked for many years in the UK before I joined the PHED. Over there, it is one way of attracting customers because people want to know what to do to reduce their energy cost, unlike in Nigeria where we did not have such concerns or 24-hour supply. There, there are peak periods. People want to know what to do during peak periods when per unit cost is very high. You might decide to turn off certain things such as refrigerator at peak period because the cooling can still retain when it is off. There are lots of things people can do. That consciousness to reduce cost, reduce carbon emission and still get full service is important. That created a culture of energy-saving. PHED is the first Disco to delve into this aspect and introduce energy-saving measures and we are reaping in that direction.

We are seriously teaching our customers all about this scheme and showing them what each appliance would consume and how to choose alternatives; even how to access those alternatives. The moment they do it, the energy consumption level of each appliance will drop and the bills drop. I am sure our customers are happy about this programme.

How is it being replicated at the national level, or can’t this be a national scheme to make Nigerians energy-efficient?

I think it is something that is very important to handle this from a national perspective. Certain regulations and laws that back up these things have to come from the National Assembly and the Executive would have to sign them into law. At that level the FG has to have the political will and willingness to go into this and educate the people because in Nigeria today where we are generating between 3,000 and 4,000 and there is a projection that we may need about 60,000 megawatts to have a stable supply. It shows the gap is too much. What do you do? The wise thing to do is cut down on consumption by introducing efficient use. If the FG can look into this direction and tap from some of us who have gone into this field for a very long time to contribute to policy design and regulations, it would help.

How are other Discos embracing this from the PHED?

Okay, this energy efficiency and promotion of the activities are virtually contained in NERC rules, in Section 51 of the NERC condition which requires all Discos to comply. It’s left for the NERC to enforce this regulation. All Discos in Nigeria should be made to start promoting it and this will go a long way in making the customers do this. It has been proved in other countries where this has been enforced. I was in Paris for the International Energy Agency Programme on Energy Efficiency some months ago. They trained officials from various countries on energy efficiency. You can hardly find any inefficient appliance there because the government there is determined to enforce this.

How true is it that some appliances rejected abroad are finding their way into Nigeria as fairly used items, and is the FG alerted to this?

The FG has to increase attention to stop dumping of energy-wasting appliances. We need to move up and ensure we move on the same trend with other nations to ensure that those inefficient appliances and environmentally harmful items do not escape into Nigeria. Nigeria can also partner with those foreign companies that are into energy-efficiency appliances to come and set up here so that the unit cost will reduce when people start buying them, boosting economies of scale. This will encourage people to move over to energy efficient appliances due to availability and affordability.

How optimistic are you that Nigeria will get there and what will the country look like then?

I am very optimistic that Nigeria will get there. That is why I came down to Nigeria to impart this line of knowledge. What we are saying is that when people start imbibing this behavioral change and also switch to using-energy saving appliances, and start enjoying the benefits.

PHED should be given some credit for setting the pace in the industry in the energy-efficiency scheme. The customers are happy for this. It is important to help them build a new culture of saving energy by practicing the steps they have been taught. We have been going from one school to the other in collaboration with the Rivers State Ministry of Education and Ministry of Power; also the Universal Basic Education (UBEC). We have covered over 120 schools in the state, going from company to company trying to educate them on what they can do to reduce their energy cost. When they do that, their production will reduce and they will make more profits and expand capacity and employ more people. The economy will start doing fine. The energy efficiency scheme has a win-win strategy for both the energy consumers and the energy suppliers. This is a direction the FG should critically look into and promote on a large scale.

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