Nigeria’s inability to achieve stable power supply over the last few decades is a stark pointer to the fact that its over-reliance on gas and to a lesser extent, hydro electric power sources alone need to reviewed.
Though gas, due to its abundance in Nigeria, appears to be the most cost-efficient and effective means of power generation and hydro is also cost-effective due to its abundance, experts are of the view that other alternative and renewable energy sources of power generation should be considered by the Federal Government to broaden the country’s energy mix and help ensure stable power supply.
THE ISSUE WITH OVER RELIANCE ON GAS AND HYDRO POWER SOURCES
The major problem the country has experienced in terms of utilizing gas sources is the issue of supply, which has been consistently hampered by the vandalisation of pipelines and gas infrastructure in the country over the last couple of months.Professor Chinedu Nebo, Minister of Power, had a couple of weeks ago, blamed the consistent drop in power supply on gas shortage due to gas pipelines vandalisation. According to Nebo, power supply dropped from 4,000 mega watts to about 3,000 mega watts as a result of sabotage, which hindered gas supply to the thermal plants.
He also disclosed that the vandalisation of five different gas pipelines across the country that supply gas to major power plants, which in turn supply power to the national grid had led to the loss of about 2,300 mega watts in the past few months. He identified the affected pipelines as the 800 mega watts capacity Escravos-Lagos Gas pipeline system and the Trans-Forcados pipeline, also with a capacity of 800 mega watts. Nebo also noted that the Trans-Niger pipeline with a capacity of 500 mega watts; the Alakiri-Onne gas pipeline and Chevron gas plant with capacity of 2,672 MW were also affected.
On the aspect of the hydro power plants, he identified low water levels as a factor that is greatly affecting the effectiveness of the hydro power dams. He, however, assured that rehabilitation work was ongoing at the Kainji and Shiroro dams to upgrade them.
THE NEED FOR RENEWABLE AND ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF ENERGY
In his own view, Professor Rahamon Bello, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Nigeria, noted that in order to enhance energy security and sustainability through the diversification of feedstock for power generation, the use of coal and other renewable energy resources hitherto unused, such as wind, solar, biomass, have to be fully deployed in partnership with the private sector.
According to him, Nigeria is endowed with abundant renewable energy resources, the significant ones being solar energy, biomass, wind, small and large hydropower with potential for hydrogen fuel, geothermal and ocean energies. “Except for the large scale power generation from hydro resources at Jebba, Kainji and Shiroro which serves as a major source of electricity, the exploitation and utilization of the renewable energy resources in the country is very low”. “Recent efforts have led to the increasing use of solar energy resources but others like wind and biomass are currently limited largely to pilot and demonstration projects,” he maintained.
Federal Government had in realization of the importance of renewable and alternative energy sources in ensuring stable power supply across the country, earlier listed in its Vision 20:2020 programme, a number of policies that would help diversify the country’s energy sources from predominantly gas and hydro.Bello noted that the policy thrust of the medium term plan envisaged a power sector that efficiently delivers sustainable, adequate, qualitative, reliable and affordable power in a deregulated market while optimizing the on, off grid energy mix and a technologically driven renewable energy sector that harnesses the nation’s resources to complement its fossil fuel consumption and guarantee energy security.
The key strategic objectives for the first medium term Implementation Plan (2000 – 2013), according to him, were as follows:
1. To increase generation, transmission and distribution capacity for adequate and sustainable power supply. Generation of 16,000MW by 2013 was envisaged.
2. To have an optimal energy mix of gas fired plants (12,730MW), coal (900MW), nuclear (0MW), hydro (2250MW) with other renewable i.e. wind (10MW), solar (10MW) and biomass that could give a total of 16,000MW by 2013 – using appropriate technologies.
3. To encourage local production of inputs for power sector development using local materials.
4. To reduce wastage of electricity by promoting efficient practices through introducing demand side management, publicity, encourage use of energy saving equipment.
5. To promote effective utilization of coal to complement the nation’s power needs and ensure the much-needed power generation mix.
6. To harness a significant contribution of hydropower potential for electricity generation with the mini and micro hydropower schemes developed for electricity extension to rural and remote areas.
7. To ensure a significant contribution of the wind energy to the electricity generation mix in the areas feasible.
8. To make effective use of the solar energy resources for electricity generation, particularly in the rural and remote areas.
Though, the timeline was between 2000 and 2013, only a few of the projects have been developed in this regard.Bello maintained that until now, hydroelectric power is still the onlymain source of renewable energy and the second largest source of power in the nation after gas-fired plants with littleor no inputfrom other sources.
Also commenting recently, Mr. Adegun, Adedamola, a Gas Commercial Advisor with an exploration & production company in Nigeria, said; “It’s inconceivable that Nigeria would ever fulfill its economic potentials without adopting coal as part of its electricity generation mix. The only coal fired power plant in Nigeria today is a derelict 10MW power plant in Oji River, Enugu State”. “Without much delay, Nigeria urgently needs to establish a sound commercial and environmental framework to support the growth of coal energy. Though NERC has licensed some coal power plants; the Commission’s body language does not imply that coal will be taken seriously.”
“There is no universal standard for a country’s electricity mix but diversification and balance considering the availability and cost of energy resources is key. Furthermore, the commercial, legal and technical framework must be continually attuned to stimulate and sustain investment in diverse energy resources” he said.
ADEQUATE FINANCING IS KEY FOR RENEWABLE AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT
However, despite the huge benefits of renewable energy, promoters of the Bank of Industry/United Nations Development Programme’s “Access to Renewable Energy” (AtRE) project, have cited lack of finance and funding as the major factor hindering the development of renewable energy in Nigeria.Mr. Lawal Gada, Renewable Energy Manager/Acting Project Manager, BOI/UNDP AtRE Project, disclosed that renewable energy finance is almost non-existent in Nigeria, adding that most of the projects developed are either government sponsored or financed from private sources.
He expressed concern that despite the fact that Nigeria’s potential household energy market is worth $1.5 billion, about N240 billion, banks’ funding for renewable energy projects in the country is inadequate, due to a number of factors ranging from perceived risks to dearth of long term funding.Apart from lack of finance, Gada identified other challenges to include lack of standards for renewable products, technical know-how of industry players, awareness on positive impact of renewable energy and sustainability of the projects.
As a response to the challenges of access to funding, the African Development Bank (AfDB) had a couple of months ago disclosed that the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) committee has allocated $85 million, about N13.6 billion, to Nigeria to fund renewable projects.According to the AfDB, the fund allocated to Nigeria is part of the $250 million endorsed in its investment plan under the Clean Technology Fund (CTF).The AfDB said the fund aims to promote private and public sector-led renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and mass-transit urban transport investments.
The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) provides a unique financing instrument designed to support low-emissions and climate-resilient development through scaled-up financing channelled through the African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Inter-American Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.The AfDB said it expects to channel at least half of the CTF financing and contribute technical support and $200 million of its own co-financing to two projects specified in Nigeria’s plan, namely a bus-based mass transport systems and financial intermediation for clean energy and energy efficiency.
GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO RENEWABLE AND ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF ENERGY
It is imperative for the Federal Government to show a serious commitment towards renewable and alternative sources so as to overcome the current power supply deficit. Minister of State for Power, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil, recently said the Federal Government is committed to deploying renewable energy in all forms to complement existing conventional sources to provide sustainable electricity to Nigerians. He noted that the present administration was working on a strategic renewable energy framework to exploit environmentally sustainable energy sources to power Nigerian homes and industries. Wakil said the Federal Government is seriously focusing on renewable energy due to environmental factors and the need to supplement energy generation from conventional sources, adding that the administration is open to foreign direct investment in renewable and conventional energy.
On his own part, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Minister of Power, reiterated the commitment of the present administration to improve electricity generation and transmission in the country through the development and utilisation of renewable energy resources. According to him, “with the low level of electricity generation and transmission in the country, the only way to reach the rural communities is to ensure that we deploy as much renewable technology to reach communities that are far away from the national grid.”
From the foregoing, it is crucial, as Rahamon Bello noted, that “the eventual solution to the Nigerian power problem will involve the generation of power from resources, such as coal, wind, solar, nuclear, biomass, among others, as at where they are available in the nation and not 100 per cent reliance on generation from only natural gas and hydro resources.” This will ultimately ensure an effective and secure energy mix and also enable the Federal Government to adequately achieve the dual goals of ensuring that Nigeria’s economy and her inhabitants reap the long overdue benefits of constant power supply.
*Ike Eboh is a a writer with a specialist focus on energy issues.