Energy Challenge: Exploring the Solar Option

Energy Challenge: Exploring the Solar Option


The recurring collapse of Nigeria’s national grid reiterates the urgent need for an alternative power supply in the country. Electricity in the country has suffered major setbacks over the years. Although, Engr. Sule Ahmed, the Acting Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), assured Nigerians of the company’s effort towards attaining a robust electricity grid for the country, there is an obvious need for the nation to begin an urgent exploration of its inherent solar potential. This would be a worthier alternative.

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The country’s epileptic power supply is said to be the second biggest obstacle to doing business in the country. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recorded that lack of access to reliable electricity costs Nigeria an estimated $29 billion a year. It also reported that Nigeria spends approximately $14 billion a year on small-scale generators. The Federal Government, well aware of the challenges, has invested in the exploration of solar power to solve the irregular electricity supply in the country. Twenty-five million Nigerians will become beneficiaries of the installation of N140 billion off-grid solar home systems.

The installation will commence in rural communities all over the country from this December. This will cover 5 million home systems and reach over 25 million people in under-served and off-grid communities in the country. The initiative is an off-shoot of the Economic Sustainability Plan of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. In addition to the provision of affordable energy, the government intends to enhance the social, economic, and environmental welfare of 25 million Nigerians while creating about 250,000 new jobs and increasing revenues.

The new initiative will place Nigeria in the centre stage amongst other African countries that have explored solar potential. South Africa, the second-largest economy in Africa, per capita energy consumption is 31 times greater than Nigeria. South Africa was previously at the bottom, ranking 25th in 2013. Egypt has the world’s largest solar park. Egypt’s $2.8 billion Benban solar park is a power complex of 41 solar power plants. Also, Rwanda’s 8.5 megawatts (MW) power plant is well projected, that the aerial view is similar to the shape of the African continent. Rwanda’s $23.7m (£15.6m) solar field went from contract signing through construction, and then connection in just a year, disregarding cynicisms of Africa’s capacity to achieve speedy projects. The FG, despite many shortcomings, has concluded that the country would require a five-fold increase in electricity consumption to maintain momentum with countries that have similar capacity.

Solar power in Africa is on the verge of becoming a market commodity. There has been a switch in the African solar photovoltaic (PV) sector away from donor-driven projects towards market-driven investments. Residential power usage also dominates Nigeria’s total energy demand. A report from the International Hydropower Association observed that Nigerian hydropower potential surpasses that of all currently installed power in the country. This led to the government’s decision to reach 30% renewable energy over the next decade.

Nigeria has over 2,600 hours of sunlight per year. This shows the nation’s economic strength. It has the potential to become a leading player in solar power. This will also solve the pressing need for energy reform. A 2015 government report revealed that about 55% of the country lacks access to grid-connected electricity. Those with nominal access to centralized power are frequently plagued with power cuts and outages.

Solar energy has the distinct potential to tackle both economic and health issues, help reduce costs, and improve the living conditions of a million people. Facilities can reach completion within 12 months. Technology is also available to store solar power in lithium-ion power storage batteries to help generate power at night. This offers financial savings coupled with power reliability. Concentration on solar power can help the nation accomplish 50% of renewable power generation by 2023. This will create millions of jobs, and minimize the pressure on the existing grid. Ade Yusufu, a Business Development Director stated that, ‘with the highest GDP in Africa and still growing at an impressive rate, businesses across Nigeria are looking to innovative solutions to create their own stable and viable power solutions.’

TCN’s effort to improve the power supply in the country is a great move. However, the Federal Government’s initiative to create alternative energy will greatly advance the nation. Solar is a worthy alternative. It does not need highly expensive turbines to generate power. It is therefore a viable means to intervene in the nation’s unending challenge of electricity.

Peace Omenka

Photo Credit: REA

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